whats up with the trees this year?
December 3, 2017 9:59 AM   Subscribe

As I've been out walking this year, I've noticed that about 25% of our non pine trees still have leaves on them. Sometimes, it's an entire tree, sometimes, like my backyard, a quarter of the leaves just haven't fallen. On oaks, the leaves have turned brown, however there are some other varieties that remain green. Some of the trees are huge 60 ft trees, and some are newly planted. I live in Maine, so these are normally down and raked by mid November. Any thoughts? Is it climate change?
posted by rudy26 to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Montreal's La Presse considered your question this weekend, because we've seen similar phenomena in Quebec.
posted by zadcat at 10:02 AM on December 3, 2017

I think one key reason has to do with the temperature staying warm longer than it normally does. Here's another explanation that lists some other factors that are, indeed, worsened by climate change.
posted by pinochiette at 10:04 AM on December 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Here in MA it stayed warm way into late October. We didn't have a killing frost until November 9th, which is definitely not usual. I was harvesting tomatoes until then.

Now, I can't say if it's directly related to climate change or just an unusually warm year, but the trend is definitely towards milder falls and therefore later winters.
posted by lydhre at 10:42 AM on December 3, 2017

Same thing here in northern NJ.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:43 AM on December 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

This article presents several climate change factors (heat, but many more) that can alter tree phenology in New England, relative to e.g the 1960-1990 baseline.

It is not specifically about this year, but is a solid reliable source for what factors the trees respond to, and how they change with climate change.

For this year, it’s far too early for actual scientists to weigh in on the record. I’d not expect to see that kind of stuff until at least a year out. So next fall remind me and we can look for reports of the form ‘study shows 2017 record late leaf drop in NE due to climate change’ :)
posted by SaltySalticid at 11:24 AM on December 3, 2017

I noticed this in Rhode Island too. I found some articles that explain the lack of bright colors but nothing that discusses the retention of leaves. The closest I have come is this article about the role of auxin in leaf abscission but I haven't figured out what environmental factors cause the delay.
posted by Botanizer at 11:47 AM on December 3, 2017

My driveway is basically a carpet of leaves. I live in Atlanta but this is unusual for early December.
posted by madcaptenor at 12:36 PM on December 3, 2017

We've had the same thing in our part of upstate NY. The leaves didn't really get around to changing and falling until Thanksgiving week ("you didn't need to do this all at once," I snapped at the big tree in my front yard).
posted by thomas j wise at 12:56 PM on December 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

It has been unseasonably warm here in Illinois, also. Sorry, not going to complain. But I am seeing what seems, to my untutored eyes, an unusually large amount of non-bare trees.
posted by Samizdata at 2:38 PM on December 3, 2017

Msg from other side of planet. Our apricot region - Central - is having it's earliest harvest ever - a full 2 weeks early. Had very mild winter, and summer is ?4 or 5°C warmer.
posted by unearthed at 9:50 PM on December 3, 2017

Here in Italy for the pst three-four years the craziness in the seasons has become so marked that even city-dweller friends have remarked on it. Trees and plants are blossoming at totally unusual times - e.g. mimosa, the traditional gift for Women's Day on 8 March, already bloomed and faded by the end of February, an easy data point to spot even by the unobservant. The migratory flocks of birds are gathering and doing their pre-migratory flight checks totally out of sync. Last month I spotted a couple of mosquitos, normally all gone by mid- or end-September. Something's going on, and it's creepy.
posted by aqsakal at 11:08 PM on December 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Here is a nice meta-analysis of leaf drop phenology work. TLDR- leaf drop is happening later, especially in mid-latitudes, but it is a complex, multi factor problem that makes for messy data.
posted by rockindata at 4:22 AM on December 4, 2017

Best answer: We're noticing similar in Chicago. Our local arboretum said it's a combination of a wet spring, dry summer, and a late first frost. (And we still haven't had a real cold spell, though that supposedly happens this week.) They said that the wet spring meant the trees leafed out much more than usual, which means there are more leaves to drop, too.
posted by writermcwriterson at 1:20 PM on December 4, 2017

Response by poster: you all have been quite helpful. Thanks.
posted by rudy26 at 2:33 PM on December 4, 2017

Much the same in Western Washington. There have been a lot of leaves on the ground, but many in the trees as well still. No frosts yet, and our usual mid-November fogs didn’t start until early December. But for all that, it’s been unusually wet and lots of early snow in the Cascades.
posted by lhauser at 7:34 PM on December 4, 2017

Not trees, but other worrying changes in the seasons in UK, too.
posted by aqsakal at 1:23 AM on December 5, 2017

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