Walking through our neighborhood on the way to the park, my husband and I commented that the leaves on the trees seemed to go from green to dead and almost bypass the hues of gold, orange and red to which we had become accustomed. We agreed that this fall certainly lacked its usual brilliance. I began to wonder why, and a quick Google search suggested that this is not an uncommon question across the country.
Where did the colors go?
Theories abound, but one headline stood out: "Dull leaf hues called climate change omen." How…ominous, especially as I continued to read that these lackluster leaves could be the canary in the coal mine signaling that our trees are going to head north as temperatures continue to warm.
These warming temperatures and associated abnormal weather patterns could be the culprit behind ho-hum leaf colors in recent years. Spring comes earlier, summer lasts longer and drought becomes more prevalent, zapping plants' abilities to thrive in a once-friendly environment and relegating certain tree species to higher latitudes.
Trees on the move
At first glance, the idea of a bunch of migrating trees may not seem like such a big deal. However, when you start to think about the larger role these plants play in the ecosystem, from providing food and shelter to myriad creatures to forming the basis of entire industries (do you like real maple syrup on your pancakes?), the prospect of a transforming forest becomes more disheartening.
Of course, it would do well to bear in mind that a couple years' worth of dull fall foliage is no cause for panic. Warming temperatures could be an anomaly. We'll have to rely on the wait-and-see approach to know if this is a shift in climate (weather patterns over time) or just a weird hiccup.
As scientists grow in concurrence (97% agree) that climate change is real, happening now and largely the result of human activity, such as burning fossil fuels, it may be a good time to appreciate the lovely yellows, vibrant oranges and ravishing reds if you've got them. If you want to keep them, it would also be a good time to think about how you use energy, where it comes from and whether to switch to greener energy sources.