Is global warming dimming fall’s leaf show?

It appears as though the usual spectacular autumn show in the Northeast has gotten somewhat dull recently. Where some trees would explode in vibrant reds, orange, and yellows they now go from summer’s green to winter’s dull rust.

Tom Vogelmann, a plant biologist at the University of Vermont, says that autumn has become too warm to elicit New England’s richest colors. The bright fall colors that have made New England autumns so famous are the result of broken down green chlorophyll, and trees need cold nights in order to break the chlorophyll down. Warmer nights mean less broken-down chlorophyll and thus less color. Additionally, warmer weather has contributed to a spread of fungi that attack red and sugar maples, the trees that produce the brightest fall displays.

The potential for non-spectacular autumns has some New England tour operators worried. The business of leaf-peeping brings in hundreds of millions of dollars, and Northeast hotels and tours book up nearly two years in advance.

[via LA Times]