2016-10-13 / Front Page

Fall’s here, but where are colors?

Warmth to blame
By Amy Hubbell
Of The Enterprise staff

Looking to put a little color in your life?

You might have to hit the road.

For the second-straight year in Leelanau County, the fall color season is delayed beyond the traditional peak that occurs near Columbus Day weekend.

“I was traveling last weekend and the colors around Cadillac were great,” said Sally Guzowski, director of the Leelanau Peninsula Chamber of Commerce. “But color hasn’t arrived here yet.”

There are several factors that influence the time and intensity of the color change, according to National Weather Service (NWS) meteorologist Mike Boguth.

“One is the shortening of daylight and another is temperatures,” he explained.

Indeed, September temperatures were 5 to 7 degrees above normal in northern Michigan.

At the NWS observation post in Maple City the average high temperature last month was 74, about 3 degrees higher than normal. Highs at the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Center in Bingham Township averaged 73.3 degrees for the month, nearly 4 degrees higher than normal for that site.

But it’s the not-so-low temperatures that tell the rest of the story.

The normal low in Maple City most Septembers is 50.8 degrees. Last month the average low was 55.9.

The warm nights held true in Bingham Township where lows averaged 58.3 degrees compared to the norm of 52.9.

Leelanau’s proximity to the warm waters of Lake Michigan has also played a roll in the delayed color change.

“The Great Lakes are still 3 to 4 degrees above normal,” Boguth said.

According to Michigan Sea Grant Coastwatch, the temperature of the big lake off Leland is between 60 and 61 degrees.

So what does this mean for Leelanau leaf-peepers?

“It could mean a shortened color season,” Boguth said. “The later we get into fall, the bigger the wind events are. So the color season could be shorter.”

According to The Foilage Network, a website that provides twice-weekly reports on fall colors, the northern half of Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula were at 60 to 81 percent color Monday.

The website reported 31 to 60 percent moderate color in the interior portions of the Lower Peninsula, with lesser intensity along the Great Lakes shoreline.

Warmer than normal temperatures are expected to continue through the weekend.

The NWS forecast for Leland calls for a high temperature of 65 degrees Saturday with an overnight low of 58. It’s nearly ditto for Sunday.

“I’m still getting a lot of calls. The warm weather is stretching out the season,” Guzkowski said. “I’m still wearing my flip-flops, just because I can.”

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