Autumn doesn’t officially begin until Sept. 23, but those chilly nighttime temperatures we’ve been experiencing just may bring on Michigan’s fall color show earlier than usual.
Every year, the timing and vibrancy of Michigan’s fall foliage is different, and this year is no exception. It all depends on the temperatures in coming days, as well as moisture that heads our way in the form of rain.
At this point, weather reports are showing that peak color might be coming about three days earlier across Michigan, compared to the historical average.
“Moisture is the key,” said David Petts, owner of Branching Out Nursery & Landscaping in Fenton.
“It allows the trees to hold onto their leaves long enough for a strong color showing. When you have a dry fall, leaves just dry up and fall off the trees.”
Although the scientific concept of how leaves change color is fairly simple, predicting when it will happen is far from an exact science.
The major factors impacting peak fall are sunlight, precipitation, soil moisture and temperature.
Although this fall’s weather forecast is anybody’s guess, one thing is certain — the strength and length of Michigan’s fall color show depends on a “normal fall” with temperatures in the 60s or 70s and some rain, Petts said.
“The cooler the weather and the more moisture we have, the longer we’ll have our fall colors,” he added. “It’s got to be cool enough to keep the fall color developing but warm enough to not be freezing.”
This week’s Indian summer temperatures might slow down the color progression that has already begun to start in the Upper Peninsula and tip of the northern Lower Peninsula.
Here’s a sneak peek at possible fall color dates:
Week of Sept. 28 —
near peak in U.P.
Near peak conditions in the U.P. and tip of the northern Lower Peninsula.
Week of Oct. 5 —
peak season in the U.P.
The entire Upper Peninsula, as the well as the Straits of Mackinac area, will be at peak foliage. The upper portion of the Lower Peninsula, north of Cadillac and Manistee, will be at near peak. The rest of the state remains at partial foliage.
Week of Oct. 12 —
peak for northern Lower Peninsula
The U.P. is past peak and the lower portion of the state is nearing peak.
Week of Oct. 19 —
peak for lower Michigan
If you didn’t make it up north for the turning of the leaves, you can just stay home and enjoy the color show from Metro Detroit all the way up to the West Branch area.
Week of Oct. 26 —
entire state is past peak
Nearly the entire state is past peak at this point unless you’re planning a visit to the New Buffalo area. This tiny portion of the Lower Peninsula (near the Indiana border) will be at peak season for this week.
Fall color tour tip: It’s better to be a few days late in your fall color tour than a few days early. If you show up late, there will still be plenty of color. If you come early, peak color might not have arrived yet.