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Drought, heat make for unique fall color season

Heat, drought, make for unique fall color season
Heat, drought, make for unique fall color season 02:05

HASTINGS, Minn. — The view at Afton State Park in Hastings is perhaps the best way to understand the toll Minnesota's drought and warm temperatures have had on fall colors. 

"I think we have to redefine normal, or use a different word," said DNR Naturalist Linda Radimecky. 

The Twin Cities are down roughly 11 inches of rain since the start of April – moreover, climatologists say the month of September is three degrees higher than average. The result: a fall colors season that's anything but typical.

At Afton State Park, it looks like trees that haven't turned standing over grasses, shrubs and other plants that turned too soon. 

"We're standing by big blue stem," Radimecky said Wednesday. "Normally this time of year, it's 100% purply blue, gorgeous, waving in the breeze, and it's turned golden before it usually does… It was blue color for a week only, and it should be for a month."

DNR Climatologist Pete Boulay says the exact opposite scenario is playing out for trees in the Twin Cities. 

"You're going to see some color, but not all leaves are going to change at once," he said. "Some trees are driven by temperature, some trees are driven by light. Obviously, we haven't had cold temperatures, so fall color might be delayed for some trees this fall."

Boulay says Minnesota is in its fourth consecutive year below normal precipitation levels – as long as the drought persists, he says, it's easier for it to stay warm. 

"I have no doubt that fall and winter will come," he said. "It's just who knows when, exactly."

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