With the leaves finally changing color, autumn’s arrival has been unofficially proclaimed across campus.
Snow seemed to come a week too early. Alongside seemingly unstoppable rain, flooding and random heatwaves, students are ready for something that resembles the normal pattern of seasons.
Dishan Nahitiya, graduate student in computer science, said his native country of Sri Lanka doesn’t have winter and as such, he looks forward to Manhattan’s winter every year, including the first sign of the cold — the leaves falling.
“It’s amazing, I’ve been here for 5 years,” Nahitiya said. “It’s something that I love the most over here. Some people don’t like winter, but I love winter.”
Bob Atchison, rural forest coordinator for the Kansas Forest Service, said the cold weather causes the leaves to transition into their iconic autumn shades.
“During growing season [trees] produce a [green] pigment called chlorophyll,” Atchison said.
However, as the year carries on, temperatures drop and the days get shorter, production of chlorophyll lowers. As trees begin preparing to go dormant for the start of winter, they start to shed their pigmented foliage.
The loss of chlorophyll reveal carotenoids, flaring the yellow and orange hues during the seasons where the weather is cooling.
Sugars also play a critical role in the transitioning autumn scenes, Atchison said.
“Lower temperatures and bright light and sugars from trees like sugar maple also produce anthocyanin,” Atchison said.
Anthocyanin, Atchison said, is what produces the bright red, pink and purple pigments.
Atchison said he expects to see the peak of the fall leaves occur sometime within the next week and a half. In the long term, the leaves should stay around into early November unless there is an early freeze.