Saturday, Sept. 22 is the first day of fall and many Hoosiers look forward to seeing the leaves change. Unfortunately, due to climate shifts, the state will likely have less brilliant fall color in the future.
Great fall color requires the right amount of moisture and, of course, cooler weather.
Songlin Fei researches how climate impacts forest ecosystems at Purdue University. He says more warm weather means trees are likely to hold on to their green leaves for longer — and increased droughts would make the colors more muted.
“So their leaves just wither and get brown instead of turning into colors,” he says.
Fei says Indiana’s more colorful trees — like the northern red oak and the sugar maple — may also not grow as well in a warmer climate.
Jonathon Day researches how climate shifts affect tourism at Purdue. He says all of these factors mean fall color won’t be as reliable — and that means businesses that depend on those beautiful leaves will have to plan accordingly.
“How can we be building our business so that we have other reasons for people to be coming to our part of the state," he says.
Because fall color also depends on local weather conditions, Songlin Fei says different parts of the state will have better color.
Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.