(WKBN) – For weeks, our team of meteorologists had been talking about the drier than normal weather. That has changed this week but all that drier weather is having an impact on our fall foliage.

You know how we’re supposed to drink so many ounces of water per day for optimum health? For a while, our trees were not able to drink enough water. They need water to convert carbon dioxide into energy. But that lack of water put some stress on some trees, forcing them to, essentially, stress eat.

Have you noticed sprinkles of fall colors showing a little earlier than usual?

“Trees that are more stressed will change colors earlier than trees that aren’t as stressed,” said David Parrott, a fall color forrester for the ODNR Division of Forestry.

You may have noticed early colors in your yard or around the Valley about two weeks ago, and we’ve been seeing dropping leaves for about a month.

“Right now, we are seeing trees that are already changing color, which is pretty early for when we’d normally be seeing those changes, and depending on where you are, that is likely due to stress,” Parrott said.

Parrott says that stressor is likely the dry weather we had. Lack of rain impacts how long leaves stay on trees.

“It can be kind of detrimental to the fall colors because if the leaves dry out, they’ll just fall off too. So a lot of those leaves you may see falling off the tree is the tree just shedding those because the tree is under stress and doesn’t have the moisture to maintain those,” Parrott said.

That explains the leaves we have been seeing in our yards for the last month.

Impacts go beyond leaves drying and falling off. Trees will also pull energy out of leaves as they prepare to hibernate.

“If a tree is stressed, it’s going to start pulling that chlorophyll out and you’re going to get a lot more of those yellow colors,” Parrott said.

Chlorophyll is the green pigment in leaves responsible for trapping sunlight to be used by the plant. It is produced in abundance during the growing season, which is why leaves are green. Yellow and orange pigments are there but hidden by the dominant chlorophyll.

We begin to see those colors when chlorophyll production stops. But the reds and purples come from a chemical reaction with sugars in the leaves, producing pigments called anthocyanins. That process requires healthy leaves and optimum conditions as the amount of sunlight fades in the fall.

“Sunny days and nice, cool evenings. That is the recipe for good fall colors,” Parrott said.

Early yellowing is a sign that the tree is basically stress-eating energy stored in the leaves. Parrott says that can impact colors at the peak season.

“Trees, when you see that, it would be a safe assumption that most of those are probably going to have more muted colors moving forward,” Parrott said.

This doesn’t mean we won’t have any bright colors or our trees will have issues surviving the winter. We’ll see the yellows and oranges but some trees may not produce as vibrant red and purple pigments. Also, some trees may drop their leaves a little earlier.

Parrott says peak colors are expected between Oct. 17 and Oct. 24 in Ohio. You can keep tabs on those conditions by visiting ODNR’s website. Also, click here to view Pennsylvania’s fall foliage report.