By Sue KILPATRICK
“How beautifully leaves grow old. How full of light and color
Are their last days” ~ John Burroughs
Our images and impressions of the seasons have several sources and without doubt weather is the primary one. With winter comes drifting snowflakes and spring brings gentle rain showers. And now with autumn upon us there is an expectation of wind-blown red, golden and yellow colored leaves scattered all around.
My eyes and thoughts are often focused on the outdoors. At any given moment we are influenced by the seasons and the weather, and in turn their effect on all life … amazing. Looking at the trees and their leaves around our house, green dominates. In northeastern U.S., every year at this time we get a full report about the peak and intensity of their fall foliage. Why doesn’t that happen here? The reason I grew up with was, “Our weather is not cold enough and it takes a good hard frost.” Not true! And in defense of our trees, they do change. When? Well, usually our front lawn is carpeted with beautifully colored leaves just in time to set out our Christmas decorations. No raking allowed!
The first of autumn was Friday and the weather was in sync as a cool fog drifted in during the night and lingered keeping morning temperatures fresh and cool. There was a certain “feeling in the air” proclaiming the end of summer. Still, it wouldn’t be fall in the Foothills without blowing Santa Ana winds and the warm, dry and clear blue days that accompany them. We consider ourselves fortunate when the only damage is a few fallen trees and messy yards and not the dreaded wind-driven fires.
On a more positive note, what about our autumn leaves? This explanation is not by an arborist or a chemist, just a writer for the CV Weekly and not The New England Leaf Journal (no such publication). Hidden beneath the chlorophyll-based green lies a palette of colors waiting to be revealed. Two main factors come together to perform the “magic” of this transformation – the weather and the shorter hours of sunlight. Every year varies.
With less sunlight, trees stop producing chlorophyll (green). The leaves begin to show glowing yellows and oranges. When autumn weather brings several warm sunny days and cool but not freezing nights, the leaves turn deep shades of red. Rain is also a factor. Too little can delay colors by several weeks, while too much will dull their intensity. And a severe frost will cause the leaves to turn brown, shrivel and fall to the ground.
With still a few weeks before our liquid ambers, birch and sycamore trees color, let’s take a look at the weather. With Hurricane Hillary to the south, a strong high pressure to the east and a cool low pressure moving down from northwest an accurate forecast is difficult.
With all these considered, my carefully studied prediction is for mostly cloudy skies with a slight chance of rain and a gradual cooling for the upcoming days – autumn weather.