Global Warming and Fall Foliage

Zoe Raste

Like many people, fall is my favorite season. The chilly sweater weather, the warm and festive holidays, and most importantly, the beautiful shades of red, orange, and yellow present on trees. I am also a tree enthusiast, so you can believe I was appalled when I heard that global warming is affecting tree foliage. According to Robert Correll, the chair of the Climate Action Initiative, “global temperatures will still rise by 6.3℃… twice what the Nobel Prize-winning International Panel of Climate Change in 2007 predicted would cause catastrophic changes to civilization worldwide.” 6.3℃ is about 43℉, which is undoubtedly a huge change in temperature. I am sure many of you have already noticed this and the extreme effects it has on our environment (the record-breaking heat in summer, the devastating wildfires in California, the catastrophic hurricanes throughout the coast, and the overall strange weather seem to be things out of a fantasy novel, not real life). While not everyone believes in global warming, we can all agree that something bizzare is happening.

Some impacts of global warming are less obvious, but just as heartbreaking. One major effect is the dwindling amount of time that trees have to change color. You may have noticed that the trees this year did not begin to change color until around mid-to-late October, yet in mid November, the majority of the trees are already bare. Compare this to previous years, where trees turned colors around early-to-mid September and then stayed that way until late November or early December. The fall season has become fleeting, and we have less time to marvel at the beautiful displays of color. You may ask, how does global warming have anything to do with trees changing color? Higher temperatures, more precipitation, and cloud coverage all increase the growing season, so trees spend more time being green, as they have a longer time to grow. Cloud coverage has decreased, allowing for more light to hit trees for a longer period of time. That, combined with extra rain– go back to your freshman bio– allows the trees to go through photosynthesis longer. Also, due to the plentiful use of fertilizer, the nitrogen levels in our environment have gone up. Nitrogen levels actually affect tree foliage. For example, beautiful sugar maple trees are known to have more red in their leaves when there is less nitrogen. Think of nitrogen as water that is being added to water color– the more you have, the lighter and less vibrant your color is.

Global warming has also had some huge effects on temperature and humidity. Unless your backyard is full of palm trees, it is very likely your trees are dying of heat. Due to this, trees are migrating up north to escape the heat. They are not migrating like birds do in the winter– instead trees spread their seeds up north to let their future generations escape this heat. Also, if you have curly hair like me, you are probably very aware of this humidity, as your hair puffs up every time you let it out of a ponytail. Besides making your hair a mess, humidity is increasing the amount of insects we have. I know what you think, bugs are gross, and while they are an important part of the food chain and ecosystem, the overpopulation of insects is attacking the trees, killing many endangered tree species, meaning there will be fewer trees to change colors.

All of these factors combined are making fall endangered. For fall enthusiasts like me, fall foliage is just one of many other reasons why we should fight global warming. It is a serious threat to our future and this problem cannot go unsolved. Our community has the power to make a difference. Most importantly, remember YOU can make a difference!


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