Fall color change slightly behind schedule this year
Does it seem like it’s taking longer than normal for the leaves to change color this year? If you think so, there’s a good reason: it is!
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) keeps track of fall colors each year and regularly publishes maps showing where colors are changing and which areas are past their peak color. At this time last year, the vast majority of the state was past peak fall colors; outside of far southern Minnesota, the same can be said for 2021.
This year, the DNR’s map shows far less of the state is past the fall color peak — including no areas south of St. Cloud — and fall color in the southeastern chunk of the state ranging all the way up through the north metro is only at 50-75% currently, and even less in some spots around the metro.
The DNR’s fall color page even notes that peak fall colors typically start in mid-September in northern Minnesota or late September to mid-October for far southeastern Minnesota, which typically sees the latest peak fall colors.
So why is the fall color change delayed this year?
Brian Schwingle, the DNR’s forest health program coordinator, told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS day length and temperatures are the two biggest factors in the timing of the fall color change. This year, parts of Minnesota have had warmer than average fall temps, which can push that timing back.
Schwingle also noted there are several other minor factors that contribute to fall colors and when colors change. While they may not play as big of a role in the delayed color change as the warmer temps, one of those factors is drought, which Minnesota has dealt with for most of the year.
The good news is the leaves are finally starting to change colors, and Schwingle says the amount of sunlight in the forecast bodes well for how nice the colors will look.
“Sunny weather close to peak kind of enhances the brilliance of fall colors,” Schwingle said.
He added that a lot of maple trees have already turned or are turning colors, and oak tree leaves should soon follow. Additionally, Schwingle says Minnesotans should expect to see wind starting to blow more leaves off trees.