Weather Blog: 2020 Fall foliage forecast

Weather Blog

Why Do the Leaves Turn This Time of the Year? What's the Expected Peak of the Colors in NWA? Dan Skoff Has the Latest Forecast

It’s that time of the year again! The days are getting shorter and the morning temperatures are cooling. That means the leaves will turn from that summer green into a beautiful autumn color display. What kind of fall foliage will we experience for 2020? Here’s what you can expect and when.

As we head into fall, the lower sun angle and the fewer hours of daylight causes the leaves to stop producing chlorophyll. Once this happens, the green color starts to fade and we begin to see those reds, oranges, and yellows.

In the fall, our trees in the Natural State put on a pretty impressive show, but where do these colors come from? Inside the leaves are chemicals called pigments, and there are four main types of pigment in each leaf.

  • Chlorophyll (greens)
  • Xanthophylls (yellows)
  • Carotenoids (oranges)
  • Anthocyanins (reds)

So how colorful will our trees be this year? Bright colors in the leaves are more likely when two of the following conditions are met:

  • Late summer weather is dry
  • Autumn days are sunny and nights are cool, but not freezing

We’ve definitely seen a dry late summer, which is allowing the leaves to dry out. In fact, some parts of the area are under a moderate drought and even severe drought, with other areas abnormally dry.

The last few days, our weather has been ideal for the colors to really start showing. The cool morning temperatures trap the sugars in the leaves and sunny afternoons continue to keep the leaves healthy.

It really has to be a perfect balance to get a spectacular fall foliage display. Time will tell if the leaves turn brown too fast and fall off the trees early due to the lack of rain or strong winds from a major weather system.

Due to dry late summer conditions, our colors are expected to peak a little earlier than usual this year. Typically, our peak colors for the Ozarks and the Boston Mountains are in late October into the first week in November. The River Valley area usually peaks in mid-November. This year it appears the peak will be two to three weeks earlier. Book your fall foliage trips for the weekends of October 17-18 and 24-25.

Finally, when you are looking at the gorgeous colors this fall, you might be able to identify the different tree species by using this handy little guide below. Me personally… the oaks, sugar maples, and red maples are my favorite.

So get outside and enjoy those colors while they last. Make sure you send your best fall foliage photos to our weather team by downloading our NWA Weather Authority app or by emailing them to

Courtest Mike Price: Lake Wedington in 2014

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

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