How drought could affect fall color in Minnesota

Many Minnesotans look forward to the changing colors of leaves as the fall season approaches.

However, certain factors this year could affect the way fall color appears in the state.

Last week, parts of Minnesota — mainly areas in the northwest portion of the state — entered into an "exceptional" drought phase for the first time.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Forest Health Program Coordinator Val Cervenka said dry conditions throughout the state are "absolutely" going to affect leaves’ seasonal color changes, though Cervenka said it’s difficult to predict exactly in what ways yet.

Cervenka noted many trees are already dropping their leaves due to stress amid extended drought conditions. She added drought also tends to wash out leaf colors.

Even if more rain moved through the state, Cervenka said it might not be enough to help trees recover to be able to produce full fall colors. It’s also difficult to predict when peak fall color will take place this year, given factors like drought conditions.

So, Minnesotans might have to adjust expectations when it comes to their favorite spots to see the leaves change. Still, Cervenka said she thinks there will be pockets of fall color throughout the state.

One area Cervenka expects would be appealing to view fall color is southeast Minnesota, since that portion of the state is currently more green. Cervenka said there are a lot of birch and aspen trees expected to turn yellow amid the mix of coniferous trees.

Cervenka also said fall color might be better close to rivers and lakes throughout the state.

Even if it might not be a typical year for the fall color that’s anticipated in Minnesota, Cervenka said "people should still get out and be surprised."

Updates to the DNR fall color finder map will begin Sept. 9, Cervenka said, and reporting will be the same as in years past, meaning weekly updates from park officials throughout the state.

Additionally, Cervenka noted that interested Minnesotans will also be able to compare this year’s fall color data with the past two years, to see how the fall season can change in the state.

Those interested can sign up for weekly email updates on where to find peak fall color here. You can also find more route directions and details on the fall color drives here.