All across Colorado and the Roaring Fork Valley, leaves are changing colors a bit ahead of schedule.
As the days grow colder and shorter, trees stop making their food, called chlorophyll, as they prepare to hunker down for the winter. The green fades to reveal the oranges and yellows caused by carotenoids in leaves. That’s what gives aspen leaves their distinctive gold coloring.
According to this month’s river report from the Roaring Fork Conservancy, this summer has been classified as an extreme drought season.
Drought also stresses trees. With less water, they shut down food-producing photosynthesis sooner, meaning fall colors can arrive a week earlier, or more. That also means the brilliant reds and yellows will fade faster, leading to a shorter leaf-peeping season.