Why do leaves change color?

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The fall colors of the leaves are peaking across Central Alabama! Why exactly do leaves change color?

In the Spring and Summer, the green you see is all thanks to the chemical chlorophyll. This is basically the food factory in the leaves that uses sunlight to transform carbon dioxide and water into oxygen and sugars. 

But, what about the yellows and oranges you see? Those pigments are always in the leaf, the green just masks them. Leaves are technically yellow or orange all year round! 

In the fall, because of daylight changes and temperatures dropping, the leaves stop making food. This means there is no more need for the chlorophyll so it breaks down and we see the brilliant colors of fall. Other chemical reactions may also occur that creates the beautiful red and purple colors you see. 

Temperatures, light and water supply influence how bright the colors get and the duration of the fall color. We had an early frost so that can weaken the brilliant red colors.

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