When is the Best Time to See Fall Colors?

SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah (ABC4 Utah) This Labor Day weekend, the mountains were packed with visitors. Some are saying they can’t believe the leaves are already changing!
Labor Day is the unofficial end of summer, but the fall colors are already popping in the mountains and valleys. Mother Nature plays a big role in the level of color in our fall foliage. 
The changes of the season are coming… 
“I think it’s really gorgeous and I’m excited for the cooler weather,” said Erica Vandermause, Salt Lake City resident. 
Utah’s landscapes are known for some epic autumn beauty. 
“There’s not much color in California. No real color difference, we don’t have a lot of season in LA. Living here now, we like to take  advantage of all the beautiful colors,” said Stephanie McGabe, Sandy resident. 
But the talk of the town seem to be the early arrival of some of our autumn brights. 
“We weren’t sure if it was drought and because there wasn’t a lot of rain or if it’s fall yet,” said Vandermause. 
Remember, we will see the yellows before the reds. In Utah, there’s typically a lot of color spike in early and mid October. Recent dry conditions are playing a small role in the early turnover this year. 
“They may be turning earlier this year, but that could have to do with the less amount of water they received earlier in the season, so maybe they are shutting down a little bit sooner,” said Jay Dee Gunnell, Utah State Regional Horticulturist. 
The dry conditions are also directly linked to the vibrancy of the leaves. Leaves do their best in cool temperatures. When chlorophyll, the green part of the leaf, starts to break down, we will see the yellows and orange break out. 
“The intensity of colors are affected by the amount of water and the nutrients they receive, but it’s the daylight that actually triggers the response,” said Gunnell. 
Sunlight and temperature are the major players when it comes to the autumn brights. Storms can make it rough by knocking leaves off the trees prematurely, but dry conditions do not solely spur the early change. 
“The mechanism that causes leaves to change color in the fall has to do with day length.  As the days shorten, it triggers the response in the trees to block the chlorophyll escaping the leaves and it shows the true colors of the leaves,” said Gunnell. 
An early frost would mean trouble for our changing leaves they could fall off the trees before turning purple or red. 

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