Ready or not, here it comes! Labor Day Weekend is generally thought of as the unofficial end of summertime, and despite hot weather to start the month of September, fall colors are already starting to make an appearance in Minnesota. The Minnesota DNR just published its first fall colors update, showing some change around the state already.
If this seems like it is a little earlier than usual in 2023, you aren't wrong. Here's the science behind this early change, what this year's fall season could bring, and where fall colors are already starting to appear:
Why are the leaves already turning in Minnesota?
While the start of the fall colors season usually gets going in Minnesota in the early to middle part of September and peaking toward the later part of the month, there have been some trees this year that have started to change in the last couple of weeks.
As the US Forest Service explains, a couple of the main factors that play a role in the changing of leaves include a decrease in the amount of daylight we see in the fall and cooler temperatures indicating to the trees it is time to go into their cold weather nap.
Another factor is the amount of moisture trees see during the season. This summer has been pretty dry, with the entire state of Minnesota seeing some level of drought conditions. The worst spans from the Duluth area toward the Brainerd Lakes area and in Southeastern Minnesota, as noted in red on the map below.
Dry conditions will usually trigger trees to start their fall colors show earlier than in years when there is more rain.
What will this year's dry conditions mean for fall colors in Minnesota?
Aside from an earlier start to the fall colors season, dry conditions will usually have one additional impact on our autumn leaf show.
As the University of Minnesota explains, leaves will not only turn color sooner and drop earlier than in wetter years, but the dryer conditions will impact the vibrancy of the leaves.
In dry years, the fall foliage will generally be less vibrant than in wetter years and the season will usually be shorter between the time the leaves turn and the time the fall off the tree.
While this means we could see a shorter and potentially less vibrant fall colors season this year, that doesn't mean it still won't be worth seeing. Even in dry years, I've seen some pretty decent fall colors. Here's hoping this year proves to show some of the same.
Where are fall colors being reported in Minnesota?
In the Minnesota DNR's first fall colors report, which was just published this week, a portion of the Minnesota Arrowhead and the southeastern corner of the state are starting to see small amounts of change on a measurable scale.
The DNR's Fall Color Finder is reporting up to 10% change in the areas marked in green on the map below.
This is by no means anywhere near peak levels, but with an anticipated shorter and earlier season due to the dry weather, things are likely to develop faster than in years past.
While there are a variety of factors at play that make it extremely difficult to offer a forecast, the way things look right now, that could mean things are largely past-peak by the end of September across much of Minnesota.
You can monitor the latest fall colors for Minnesota on the DNR Fall Colors Finder page or for Wisconsin on the Travel Wisconsin website. Wisconsin has seen a lot of similar weather conditions, which means the forecast for an earlier, shorter, and less vibrant season is likely in the Badger State, too.
Here are some places to enjoy this year's fall colors from above: