At the risk of sounding “basic”, I admit I love the fall and all of the autumnal foliage and rituals that come along with it. There’s no better cure for seasonal depression than taking a day trip with your friends to your nearest pumpkin patch or hiking trail and taking in all that Mother Nature has to offer. However, her seasonal show of beautiful autumn leaves might be in danger due to record high temperatures and drought this year according to recent studies.
How does climate change affect tree health and foliage levels?
If we’ve had any doubts over whether or not we’re in the midst of a climate crisis this year’s record amount of destructive storms and wildfires out west, high temperatures, and low rainfall levels could not paint a clearer picture for any deniers left.
Let’s take a closer look at the statistics made publicly available in more detail outlined by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
- “The average temperature for August across the contiguous United States of America was 74.7 degrees Fahrenheit (2.6 degrees above the 20th-century average) and ranked third-hottest August on record.”
- “The average August precipitation for the contiguous United States of America’s was 2.35 inches (0.27 of an inch below average), which put the month in the driest third of the 126-year record.”
- “The precipitation total for summer was 7.99 inches (0.33 of an inch below average), which ranked in the driest third of the record.”
- “The average temperature in the United States of America for the year to date (YTD, January through August) was 56.3 degrees Fahrenheit (2.4 degrees above the 20th-century average.) It ended as the 7th-warmest in the year to date on record.”
Another clear indication of climate troubles was the excess of damaging tropical storms, wildfires, tornadoes and other ecologically unsound events that occurred this year in direct correlation to worsening conditions on our planet.
Forest fires have a direct negative impact on the forest and its inhabitants through clear cut irreparable damage that can be seen by the naked eye. More troubling is the fact that high temperatures and droughts have insidious effects that take root over time.
This effect has been seen by folks taking nature walks, especially in Vermont, where leaf-peeping is a long-lived tradition for its residents.
Dr. William Keeton ruminates on this by saying,
“We are seeing exceptionally vibrant fall foliage in Vermont.”
However, it’s a bit too early for this vibrant show according to ecological experts.
Dr. Keeton is a Forest Ecology and Forestry Professor at the University of Vermont. In a statement released by CNN he warns premature foliage is a warning sign that the trees are exceptionally unwell.
“The colors this year are coming about two weeks earlier than normal.”
This indicates the trees are under physiological stress, much like stress causes humans to get premature gray hairs and bald early in their 20’s or 30’s, trees replicate a similar signal of distress. This ecological duress is signified by the leaves changing colors much earlier and dropping dead leaves far quicker than fall seasons past.
While this early autumn preview of rich reds, yellows, oranges, and browns may be intoxicating to view this matinee of fall glee signals trouble down the line for our bark-bearing friends. Kaytlin Weber, a seasoned data analyst for Climate Central, sends a sobering warning pulled from this brief a few days back.
“Prolonged and more extreme drought can cause physical damage to trees such as root loss, slowed growth, and makes it harder for trees to protect themselves against pests and disease.”
What can you do to help slow the disastrous effects of climate change?
There’s no use denying it anymore we’ve witnessed all the signs that individually we must all put forth the effort to preserve our natural resources. We rely on earth’s bounty to survive so why wouldn’t we extend the same courtesy back to her? You can check out this blog for 5 easy ways to reduce your carbon footprint today.
Taking shorter showers and bathing less is a start. Living near green spaces has so many benefits including great things for your mental health, overall happiness, and even increases in productivity rates while working in the great outdoors!
We can also vote on legislation in favor of clean energy to reduce carbon emissions for a greener future to preserve our wildlife and their natural habitats.
Let’s all do our part to save the only planet we have left for us and for the sake of future generations.
If we take all the necessary precautions and warning signs from our leaf-bearing companions that lend us the oxygen to carry out all our metabolic functions we can take a deep breath to relieve our collective stress in knowing our autumn hikes will continue to shock and awe for generations to come. Now go fill your thermos up with some local hot apple cider and go for a socially distanced hike with your friends, a fun and safe fall activity in these uncertain times.