Ideal weather for fall color ahead

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — So much of our color displays each year are dependent on the week-by-week weather. So far, September has been ideal for a brilliant display to unfold across West Michigan.


Leaves change every year, primarily due to the shortening days. Daylight shrinks from 13 hours and 9 minutes on Sept. 1 to only 9 hours and 16 minutes by Nov. 30. Less sunlight means leaves have less time to photosynthesize and are no longer beneficial to the tree. As the tree prepares itself for winter, it decides to lose it’s leaves that no longer are photosynthesizing.

Once this happens, a beautiful transformation occurs as the green fades from the leaves and is replaced with gorgeous orange, golden yellows, dusty browns and vibrant reds.


The best color shows are dependent on several factors. Most of them are hard to predict, but the summer leading up to the big event can tell scientists some things about how the show will go.

Both extreme drought and extreme moisture are both bad for exceptional foliage. Extreme drought usually leads to leaves that transition too fast. Leaf drop is much faster on drought years, too. This can make color shows seem patchy, as leaves that transition early can’t seem to hang on for leaves that transition a week or two later.

Extreme moisture can have the opposite effect. Years where the precipitation amounts are much higher than usual, especially in the summer before, leaves can be very slow to transition and to drop. This can lead to a lot of half-turned leaves and displays that are pushed much later into the year than they should be. A late-turning year also means trees are more susceptible to being hit with a hard freeze before they can transition to vibrant colors, meaning leaves go from kind-of-green to brown and dead late in the year.

Quite a bit of the fall display can be linked back to the week-by-week weather through the fall. Daily highs, daily lows and rain all have a big impact on how our trees will transform.


So far this season is off to a fantastic start. Warm, sunny days and cool crisp nights have taken over. Temperatures have leaned a little cooler than average since the start of September, allowing trees to begin to embrace fall.

In addition to this, there are dry conditions across much of West Michigan. This should allow our leaves to transition much faster than last year when the color show was significantly delayed due to a much wetter than average year.

Moderate drought in portions of Ottawa and Kent counties could accelerate leaf transition and drop. Most trees in these areas are showing spotty color, mostly due to the stress of drought.

The frost advisories and freeze warnings that were issued this week in West Michigan are expected to help coax color along. The freeze did not appear to be strong enough to kill any leaves, according to experts.

Right now, it looks like fall colors are a little delayed up north, likely due to the fact that northern Michigan has seen more rain this year than southwest and lower Michigan.

The stretch of weather ahead is ideal for leaves across the entire Mitten to make the switch to fall. Be on the lookout! Send any breathtaking shots to