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The leaves of many trees (e.g. beech, birch, and poplar) have a rich spectrum of reds and yellows, but for most of the year, they're hidden under a layer of green of chlorophyll. As summer ends, the days get shorter; the increase in darkness and colder weather signal trees to start getting ready for winter, when their leaves are unable to photosythesize due to the lack of sunlight. As they stop producing chlorophyll, the colorful pigments underneath become visible, causing the trees to change into the autumnal palate we all know and love. For a more in-depth explanation of the chemistry and physiology of all this, check out this episode of DNews.
This is one of the reasons why fall is the favorite season to many, and why some will be shocked to find out that in a matter of decades fall may become a completely different season. As the Earth heats up, leaves will stay greener longer. Temperature shifts let more insects move north, attacking trees that may not have been exposed in the past. Over time, native trees could die as the climate becomes inhospitable; chances are, seedlings will start to take root further and further north, moving forests away from their previous homes and into cooler latitudes. A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found this is already happening; some hardwood trees have moved 300 feet northward since 1962. We also may be in danger one of the biggest icons of autumn: the pumpkin. According to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, pumpkins grow best when it's 75-85 degrees F (23-29 C). This year, it was so hot that their pumpkins ripened and needed to be harvested in mid-August.
Climate change has already started to impact the season of fall as we know it. The autumn of our grandparents versus the autumn that our grandchildren will see may not even vaguely resemble each other. Are you going to to miss fall? is it your favorite season? Do you call it "autumn" or "fall"? Sound off in the comments down below.
Fall of fall: The mellow season of autumn is changing forever (New Scientist)
"Howard Neufeld of Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, is one researcher who thinks this may be so. He says the curtain may be descending on one of the season's defining spectacles, the fiery spread that sweeps through the forests of New England each fall - and climate change is to blame."
Climate Change Throws Nature's Timing Out of Whack (Live Science)
"Timing matters: Flowers bloom, insects emerge, birds migrate, and planting and hunting seasons are carefully coordinated times in order to take advantage of what other organisms, or the weather, is up to."
Warming temperatures implicated in recent California droughts, Stanford scientists say (Stanford.edu)
"In California, dry years coupled with warm conditions are more likely to lead to severe drought than dry, cool years, and the probability of warm and dry conditions coinciding is likely to increase under anthropogenic climate change."