Essays

Post date: 09/09/2015
 An Essay by The Fall Color Guy – Howard S. NeufeldWere you to have gone to the mountains to view fall leaf colors in 1904, your experience would have differed greatly from what you see today. For starters, there wouldn't have been as many roads (the Blue Ridge Parkway was still 3 decades away from being built), most of the high country roads would have been dirt (50% of the roads in Watauga County, NC, where I live now, and home to Boone and Appalachian State University, were unpaved as recently as 1987!), many hillsides would have been in pasture, without any trees, as that period of...
Post date: 08/30/2013
 A number of years ago, I wrote an essay on the potential impact climate change might have on fall leaf color displays (see http://biology.appstate.edu/fall-colors/will-global-climate-change-affect-fall-colors). This was based on a review of the scientific literature at that time, and also on anecdotal information about how the weather and climate affect color and duration and timing. Now, researchers at Harvard University have published the first scientific analysis of the impacts of weather on the timing and duration of fall color, at least for trees that turn red in the fall....
Post date: 09/21/2011
 Recently the Washington Post reported that previous estimates of global warming may all be greatly underestimated, according to a new United Nations Science Compendium. Robert Correll, chair of the Climate Action Initiative, which helped write the report, suggests that even if countries adopt all of the climate policies now being debated in Copenhagen, global temperatures will still rise by 6.3oF. This is twice what the Nobel Prize-winning International Panel on Climate Change in 2007 predicted would cause catastrophic changes to civilization worldwide. This is scary stuff and suggests...
Post date: 09/16/2011
 For anyone who has ever been in Scandinavia in the fall (Finland, Norway, Sweden, and nearby countries) you would have been impressed by the fall color display of the trees, just as we are here in North America. But one thing would be missing that we take for granted in the United States and Canada, and that is the color red. Trees in northern Europe are dominated by yellow and orange fall color, and relatively few turn red. In fact, only four northern European tree species have red fall color: Prunus padus (bird cherry) , Prunus spinosa (blackthorn), Sorbus aucuparia (European mountain...
Post date: 09/09/2011
 This past week, the High Country was impacted by the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee. Anywhere from 2-9" of rain was dumped on the area between Monday and Wednesday, with most of it falling on Tuesday. Creeks overflowed their banks, and one couple was trapped in their car near the mall and had to be rescued by the fire department, an event recorded and broadcast on HLN! Meanwhile, in Texas, there was no relief from the long drought that has devastated the state. In fact, the wind motion of Lee kept any significant rainfall out of that state. As a result of the lack of rain and high...
Post date: 08/29/2011
 A number of years ago while I was having lunch in my favorite restaurant in Boone, I happened to have overhead a young couple at the next table complaining about not being able to find any hotel rooms to stay in that night, and they were contemplating having to hoof it all the way back to Wilmington as a result. Looking the two of them over, I concluded they were probably academics, since both sported T-shirts from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, a premier research facility located in Massachusetts. So I struck up a conversation with them and found out they were new biology...
Post date: 10/29/2010
 It's sometimes hard to remember that the beauty we see in fall colors is the result of the death of a tree's leaves. That there can be such joy in celebrating the death of something is a curious aspect of life worthy of a philosopher's attention. But even without the philosophical implications, we can learn much about life by studying death. In fact, when you think about in the larger context, every essay about fall colors is about death in some form. Today's essay is no exception. It focuses on the simple question of why some turn yellow and orange before they fall off and die.Some...
Post date: 10/18/2010
 Introduction to the SituationCheck out this photo of a senescing oak leaf that I took last Saturday, October 8, 2010 along the Blue Ridge Parkway in western North Carolina. Note the unique coloration pattern whereby the veins have remained quite green, but the leaf blade has turned yellow. This is a common occurrence as leaves turn colors in the fall, yet is rarely commented upon, and, as we shall see, the mechanisms responsible for this pattern are still poorly understood.Why Do Leaves Appear Green?The green color in leaves results from the production of a compound called ...