Experts share ideal autumn conditions for peak fall colors

MADISON, Wis. — A chillier end of the week is on the horizon, but don’t let that rake in your plans to see the state’s fall colors.  

“I would say this weekend’s going to be a good time for at least central Wisconsin to see it, and there are parts of southern Wisconsin that (have) started to turn too,” News 3 Now Meteorologist Greg Barnhart said. “Northern Wisconsin, probably more central Wisconsin, north of Devil’s Lake State Park, I know they’re starting to turn.”  

Barnhart says the level of frost we’re expected to get with this week’s cold front won’t be severe enough to kill the leaves in southern Wisconsin before they get a chance to shine.  

According to the Department of Natural Resources, most of the state was at least 50% away from peak as of Wednesday. Barnhart said southern Wisconsin’s peak is a couple of weeks away.

“I think we could get a great opportunity to see a couple of weeks of peak season,” he said. 

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The DNR says the best autumn colors come when there’s been a warm, wet spring, a summer that’s not too hot or dry, and a fall with plenty of warm sunny days and cool nights. 

“I think the biggest driver is sunlight, and then how long they stay on is (dependent upon) how long we kind of stay wind free and precipitation too can prolong that,” Barnhart said.

Leaves also chose their outfits based on the weather. 

The DNR says that an ideal autumn climate causes the leaves to make more anthocyanins, chemicals that help recover nutrients in the leaves.

“So the extended look is favorable, there’s really no huge system on the way through next week through the following weekend yet,” Barnhart said.

This leads to brighter reds and purples.  

“The best thing you can hope for is dry conditions, calm winds, to last when it’s peak and then you’ll get a nice spectacular view,” Barnhart said.

Check the state’s fall color report from Travel Wisconsin here.

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