Heading into fall, many look forward to the changing weather pattern, as well as the changing landscape. Beautiful, vibrant colors are an annual event as the leaves begin to change. However, many factors determine the look of fall foliage. Weather is one factor. In mid-Missouri, fall foliage typically is at its peak towards late October. The weather pattern we see leading up to this point can have a huge impact on how vibrant the colors are. Also, the weather pattern we see during the early fall season can impact foliage as well.
After spring, once the leaves are fully developed, trees start to store nutrients that helps the green leaves transition into fall colors. This is why sufficient rainfall during the summer months is crucial for optimal fall foliage.
This summer in mid-Missouri, we saw below average rainfall. For the months of June, July, and August, average rainfall in Columbia accumulates to 13.23". Summer 2017 only brought in 11.21", which is a little over 2" below average. This isn't a drastic drop in precipitation, but could be accounted for when considering fall foliage.
As we look closer to fall, the month of September has been dry as well. Average rainfall in Columbia for September sits at 3.92", but this month has only brought in 1.92" of rain. That's a deficit of 1.57". When considering all four months leading up to October, we fall nearly 4" short of average. This could impact the typical orange, red, and purple colors we see during peak fall foliage, instead giving us duller brown and orange tones.
During the early fall, the weather continues to impact the foliage. Cool nights and sunny days help bring out the pigments in the leaves. For the next few days, mid-Missouri will have cool nights as lows drop into the 40s and 50s with sunny days. However, this pattern won't last long.
The Climate Prediction Center's Temperature Outlook indicates a warm up that's in store for all of mid-Mo. It also predicts above average tempurates from October 3-9. By Monday, temperatures will be back into the mid 80s during the day, with lows only bottoming out in the 60s. This could have a negative impact on our fall foliage.
One last thing to note during the early fall season is rainfall. Surprisingly, it is better to have dry conditions as we head into the month October. This ensures that the leaves won't fall prematurely before the colors develop. There is some good news here! The Climate Prediction Center's Precipitation Outlook keeps most of mid-Missouri in below average rainfall from October 3-9. This could help those beautiful fall colors we all wish to see!
During peak foliage, it's important that we see light winds and no frost to ensure a longer period with the beautiful, vibrant landscape!
Keep an eye out for the changing landscape here in mid-Missouri as we head towards late October. Send any photos to the ABC 17 Stormtrack Weather Team.