Weather Wednesday: Extreme heat and drought cause leaf scorch in Oklahoma | Local News

It’s the last official day of summer. While it’s hard to get into that autumnal state of mind with 100 degree temperatures on our doorstep this afternoon, try to imagine what fall is like. For me, it’s the pumpkins and the leaves that change these beautiful colors. What you may have noticed lately are the leaves changing, but maybe not the way they should.

The browning I see on my redbud tree outdoors is not from early fall or death of the tree (thankfully). Rather, it’s scorching the leaves, and we’re seeing it here in Oklahoma this month following a rather hot summer.

“All that early browning you see on your leaves is from the excessive heat we’ve had all summer,” said Paul James of the Southwood Landscape & Garden Center. “We’re not just talking about ambient air temperatures during the day, but also nighttime temperatures.”

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According to data from the Tulsa National Weather Service office, there were 41 days from July 1 through August 31 that had nighttime low temperatures above normal. And for 15 of those days, low temperatures were at or above 80 degrees.

“When nighttime lows don’t drop below 80 degrees, it puts these plants under serious stress,” James said. “It’s a defense mechanism they’re building here. What they basically do is lose leaves because they can’t keep the whole tree alive under that stress.

James, a self-proclaimed optimist, however, insisted on not worrying about it.

“I’m a silver lining guy,” James said, adding that while the trees look stressed now, don’t worry. “Next spring they will come back and look great! »

So, with fall knocking on our door, I asked him to give an early prediction on fall color.

“My biggest concern now with leaf change will be lack of moisture,” James said. “High temperatures won’t have as much effect on the color. It is the lack of humidity that could affect the color.

James added that being in the third year of a La Nina, which usually brings hotter and drier conditions, doesn’t help us much. But he stressed that everything would come back.

“You really have to pay more attention to the watering needs of the plants,” he said. “They need enough humidity not only in summer, but also in winter.”

According to the latest Drought Watch Index, most of Tulsa County remains in “severe drought” conditions.