Visit any local park or drive by an area with larger trees and you may notice some of the trees are already changing color. The reason behind this change is not what you might think during the fall season. Instead, the prolonged days well above average in the 90s and lower 100s are causing stress on trees, which in turn, is causing leaves to change color early.
Hot temperatures lead to a redirection of water and energy within a tree. In order to conserve this energy, water and a reduction in the photosynthesis process occurs within the leaves. This water is stored in the trunk. The lack of resources to the leaves causes them to dry out and fall. One way you can tell this is by leaf scorch.
This occurs when water is evaporated from the leaves back in the atmosphere due to above-average temperatures, prolonged direct sunlight exposure, wind and lower humidity.
We certainly have not faced any cool, crisp fall-like nights in recent months which means the cause for this change has been well-above-average temperatures and a lack of widespread rainfall from July through August.
We need our hours of sunlight to decrease further along with a strong cold front to help cool temperatures during the overnights. This will launch the color change process in trees for the fall season. We will have to see how drought conditions persist and above-average temperatures linger to determine when our color show will begin and how vibrant it will be across Kansas.
— Meteorologist Erika Paige