Weather Matters with Matthews (09/19/21): Why do leaves change color?

Weather Wisdom

Hello everyone! I am 18 Storm Team Meteorologist Jacob Matthews and welcome to “Weather Matters with Matthews.” The first day of Fall is this week, which means the leaves are going to start changing colors. The green leaves we got during the Spring will now change to yellow, orange, and red. But why do leaves change color, and how does it happen?

During the Fall season, leaves change color because of less sunlight during the day. The hours between sunrise and sunset decrease. Therefore, the days get shorter, and the nights get longer. As the amount of sunlight decreases, a material known as “chlorophyll,” which gives the leaves their green-like color, breaks down. When the chlorophyll breaks down, other materials within the leaf give off a different color. There is xanthophyll, which gives off a yellow-like color, carotenoid, which gives off an orange-like color, and anthocyanin, which gives off a red-like color.

If you live far up north in the United States, you may have a chance to see many leaves changing color as early as September. To represent the leaves changing color during the Fall season, we use a term called “Fall Foliage.” The general trend is that leaves in northern parts of the country start to change color in September, and the process works its way down south until November. Watching the leaves change color is always a great way to spend the Fall season, so go out and enjoy the beautiful scenery that only happens for a few months a year!

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