HARTFORD (CBS Connecticut)– Climate change could affect when autumn arrives in New England over the next century, according to new research.

The new study found that climate change may not only affect temperatures rising, but also factors like drought, frost, and other stresses, as reported by Phys.org.

University of Connecticut researchers found that the yearly onset of autumn may change, prompting later leaf changes in northern New England and a possible earlier shift in coastal southern New England.

“Many other studies have shown that autumn could come later each year based on rising temperatures,” lead author Yingying Xie, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, told Phys.org “But this is the first study to show the interactions of a range of different climate variables on regional ecosystems.”

Xie says that while phenology, the seasonal timing of life events in plants and animals, has been studied for the spring season that autumn is more difficult to evaluate. She says scientists don’t have an exact protocol for measuring color change in leaf, and that they often happen slowly.

Previous research is mostly based on temperature and day length to analyze season change, but experts say extreme weather events can be an indication of future global climate change.

The team of researchers used remotely-sensed satellite data from New England forests from 2001 to 2010. The region extended from northeastern Vermont and New Hampshire, to central Massachusettes and eastern Connecticut and was used to evaluate the timing of leaf color change and drop.

The findings indicate that high heat stress could lead to earlier dormancy. The authors also predicted that the years 2041 to 2050 and 2090 to 2099 will see later dormancy in northern New England and earlier dormancy in coastal and southern New England. The differences are attributed to climate and ecology in the areas, researchers say.

“Oaks are more drought-tolerant, which may explain why southern New England shows less phenological sensitivity to drought variation than, say, regions dominated by maples or birches,” coauthors John Silander told Phys.org. “Species composition makes a difference.”

Researchers say they hope the findings will encourage scientists to look at a variety of factors when examining autumn phenology. The team is now developing a study to measure leaf color variation to measure autumn dormancy.


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