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Ozarks Fall Foliage Forecast

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Color is starting to show in the forests, glades, along the roadside and in backyards throughout southwest Missouri. The next week should mark a dramatic change to brilliant hues, says KOLR10 meteorologist Chris Smith.
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Color is starting to show in the forests, glades, along the roadside and in backyards throughout southwest Missouri.  The next week should mark a dramatic change to brilliant hues, says KOLR10 meteorologist Chris Smith.

Colors have hinted at change the past few days.  But we're getting into the peak part of autumn for Missouri's color season.  The peak should be between the third and fourth week of October.  The intensity of the colors this year should be brilliant because of the rainy summer and recent cooler nights and days.

Email your fall foliage pictures to Chris Smith and he may show them on the air.

Peak color times:  Southwest Missouri:   mid-late October

Extreme Southwest Missouri and far Northwest Arkansas: Early November

You can also track fall colors on the Missouri Department of Conservation's website.  Foliage colors are reported by region of the state.

Why colors change:
 
The Missouri Department of Conservation offers this explanation:

Tree leaves contain cells that create food for the whole tree. Those cells use chlorophyll, which gives leaves their green color. The chlorophyll absorbs energy from the sun to turn water and carbon dioxide into sugars and starches - food for the tree.

Even though green is what you see during the growing season, there also are hidden colors in the leaves. Those are carotenoids. They're the same pigments that give yellow and orange to plants such as carrots, corn and daffodils.

In the fall, shorter days and cooler nights means there's less energy for food-making. The chlorophyll starts to break down. The green disappears and the yellow carotenoids can finally be seen in such trees as hickory, ash, birch, maple, sycamore, cottonwood and sassafras.

The red and purple colors, though, aren't hiding in the leaves. They're newly created in the fall when sugars are made during warm days, then trapped in the leaves during cool nights. The trapped sugars change chemically into anthocyanins, which appear red and purple.

The more sunshine during the day, the more red color is created. That's why shaded leaves will be less red than those that get lots of sun. If the weather is cloudy and the nights stay warm, there won't be as much vivid red in such trees as maple, sweetgum, oak and dogwood.

Other factors, in addition to contrasting temperatures, also affect fall color. Trees that don't get enough water during the growing season may just drop their leaves quickly before they color. And if it gets very cold, that kills the leaves, too, before they have time for a fall display.
  -- Missouri Department of Conservation

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