Very warm, very dry pattern to impact leaf color changes

Ohio's Fall Foliage

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Step outside and it still feels very much like summer, with highs well above normal in the mid 80s to near 90 by this weekend. But you will notice that some trees around us are starting to change colors already.

What gives with the early colors?

Stress. Trees should not be changing this early in the season, but it is not uncommon either. The most likely thing happening is the abnormally hot and dry pattern that we have been going through for much of the last 1.5-2.5 months has caused the trees to start changing colors early.

The Red Maples seem to be starting to show some colors right now, and while these do tend to show the mix of pretty colors early, this is mostly due to lack of rain, and plenty of heat.

When should we normally start to see the peak leaf colors here in Ohio?

In a normal weather year (which we have not had in some time), we would start to see colors changing in the northern third of the state late in September. The peak would not occur until the first third of the month of October.

The mid part of the state would follow by the 2nd third of October (the middle part of the month). The southern third of the state usually hits peak by the end of the month.

This isn’t perfect science though, as some parks tend to peak later in the year, given by elevation and proximity to the warmer late season waters of Lake Erie too!

What is good for color changes?

Ideally, you want things wet and non-stressful for the trees during the growing season, and all summer long.  Droughts and prolonged periods of hot and dry weather are bad.

Bad weather conditions early could cause a shorter, or even weaker color change for the Fall.  Also, wet weather is fine in early September, but you do want to get a good amount of sunshine by late September and October.  This will promote more of the chemical in the leaves that turns them green to get broken down.

We also want warm days and cool nights to help promote this process, and help to push forward with helping the yellows, reds, and oranges to show up.  Another key is not to have heavy rains in Autumn or big wind storms, that will weigh down on the weakened fall leaves and cause them to fall quickly.

What is the outlook for this season?

So far this month we have not had a lot of “cool nights”. In addition, temps are going to remain above normal for the rest of the month, including overnight lows.

In fact, most nights we will stay 5-10 degrees above normal. Remember, cool nights, and warm sunny days help fuel the change of the leaf colors.

Given that we will continue with plenty of sunshine, tranquil weather pattern with no major cold fronts (heavy rains/winds), we should see a later than normal color change for the leaves again this year.

Notice from the graphic above, we should see a later peak in the north, with a peak occurring between October 19th-26th. In the middle part of the state, including much of our area north of US-22, should be October 26th – November 2nd.

Generally south of US-22 (southern third of Ohio), we will see our peak in early November, generally the 2nd-9th.

What trees produce what colors in Ohio?

ODNR has put together a handy list of some of the more common hardwood trees here in the state and the most common colors you can expect from these trees during the fall change.

They state that the trees can be grouped into two main color palettes, red and yellow. But there are also a lot of trees that can fall into a mix of both/multiple color shades.

Red oak
White oak
Pin oak
Shingle oak
Black cherry

Red maple
Sugar maple

Black locust
Tulip poplar
Black walnut

We will continue to have updates to the leaf color change forecast, and what state parks are the best to head out to each weekend. Continue to look for updates!

If you have leaf peeping questions, or weather questions, email me, Also, you can always share your great pics of the color changes with us at or using our Storm Team 4 weather app.


Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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