What the weather means for Michigan’s fall colors

Fall colors
Fall colors in West Michigan on Nov. 2, 2015.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — While many West Michigan residents are saddened by the shortening days of September, with nearly 1.5 hours daytime lost, the dwindling daylight also triggers the color changing process in leaves.

Few things in nature are more beautiful than sunshine highlighting a canopy of vibrant red, yellow and orange leaves across the countryside. But how spectacular that show will be this year comes down to weather.

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One contributing factor is how stressed our trees are. A lack of water can stress trees, triggering an earlier color change, quicker leaf fall and foliage that may not be as vibrant as past years.

The above map shows the 60 day rainfall deficit across most of southern lower Michigan.

It’s been an abnormally dry in southern lower Michigan since the beginning of July. Grand Rapids’ rainfall deficit is nearly 6 inches with little significant rain in sight. Trees are already starting to show signs of dryness.

A tree on College Avenue SE in Grand Rapids’ Heritage Hill neighborhood shows signs of dryness.

Cooler than normal temperatures can also help spark an earlier arrival of fall colors. The entire Great Lakes region started out cool so far this September.

However, cool nights paired with sunny afternoons promote brighter colors. Although Grand Rapids has been cool, the area has we’ve also been quite sunny, receiving 73 percent of available sunshine through mid-September.

The above map shows how temperatures through mid-September compare to averages.

Also, West Michigan is going to flip the pattern for the remainder of the month with above average temperatures in the forecast.

The above map shows temperature anomaly through Sept. 30.
The 8-14 day temperature outlook for Sept. 21-27.

The warm second half of the month may slow the fall color change slightly. With that being said, this is when Storm Team 8 thinks these will be the best times and locations to view the color change:

Location and dates for prime viewing of peak colors in Michigan.
Best weekends for fall colors in Michigan.

Keep in mind, even if you are unable to see the colors at their peak, there area always beautiful individual trees or areas showing off amazing hues. Some of my favorite routes are anything in and around the East and West Bay near Traverse City (M-22, M-37, US-31) in wine country. Another favorite is the drive from Mancelona on M-88 to Bellaire and M-66 from Mancelona to East Jordan to Charlevoix.

You can send your photos of the fall colors to ReportIt@woodtv.com. Be sure to include when and where the photos were taken, as well as the name that should be used when giving credit.