Late fall colors in Albuquerque due to mild temps

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Many in Albuquerque have gotten a longer look than usual at the fall colors this year. With the leaves staying on many of the trees, the rakes have stayed in the shed.

On the University of New Mexico’s campus, many of the trees are not just full of leaves but many of those leaves have stayed perfectly green.

It’s an unusual sight this late in the year, but Bryan Suhr, master arborist and UNM’s arboriculture supervisor, says there’s a good reason for it.

“You have really two triggers in the fall,” Suhr said. “You have photo period or day length and you have temperature, and the temperatures have been very mild so far this fall.”

According to the National Weather Service, in a typical year Albuquerque’s first freeze will be on Halloween. However, this year, temperatures didn’t dip below 32 degrees until November 6. A hard freeze, defined by the National Weather Service as temperatures at or below 28 degrees, would typically occur around November 5. This year’s first hard freeze isn’t expected until early Thursday morning.

Suhr says that hard freeze will knock the leaves off the trees fairly quickly when it hits. Parts of the city where colder weather has already hit have more bare trees at this point.

Having a hard freeze this late in the year isn’t unprecedented. The National Weather Service says in 2006, one didn’t occur until November 29.

The unusual late look at the fall colors is not bad for the trees.

“We would be more concerned if we were expecting a heavy wet snowstorm now with all of the canopy on the leaves on the trees,” Suhr said. “That weight could cause breakage.”

Suhr says those who want to keep their trees as healthy as possible should still keep watering regularly saying it’s a bad idea to try and force the tree to go into dormancy by withholding water. Proper mulching is also key.

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