Why Autumn is the Best Season

By mrhine, 8 January, 2018
A stream flows down rocks in a forest, all covered in fall leaves

Autumn, or Fall, is a particularly nostalgic time of year. The earthy scent of leaves, the bright primary colors in the trees, cool brisk mornings, and the chittering of squirrels meticulously hiding away food stores for later. Autumn invigorates our senses and we become keenly aware that time as a whole seems shorter now. Despite seeming to have less time, we have more of everything else. Crops ripen and an absolute bounty of goods become available for us to eat and enjoy. Holidays of generosity are shared among family and friends, and even strangers give freely to each other during this time. We plan for our future, preparing to brave winter only to come through thriving in spring. Death constantly crops up as a motif, however, renewal is perhaps more fitting. Autumn is best season because it looks as beautiful as it feels. It provides us with motivation, convivial companionship, and gorgeous views to match.

Log cabins set amongst hills while people in the foreground walk
Brisk afternoons and splendid colors bring people together to enjoy what is all around us in Fall.

With less time in a day and an impending winter, we plan accordingly. Ideas previously put off are realized, and many projects delayed now come to the fore with a sense of urgency. We find need to complete our goals before the rush of Winter comes and steals our ambitions, freezing them until the first thaw in Spring. Deadlines are a sort of magic, a catalyst that increases our focus and drive.

Pedicab with lanterns at night
The Fireflies go around Eakins Oval. This public art project gave free rides to all in pedicabs decorated with colorful light ornaments.

While thinking of drive, we must consider the squirrel; these common rodents grant us laughs and frustration. They chew through our decorative gourds and run in front of our bikes, but it is rather funny watching them torment each other or even a hapless human passerby underneath their tree. Fall is the best season to watch these little creatures hard at work. They are sourcing food, eating as much as they can and storing the rest. It is a common sight to see many squirrels working over a lawn, scouring for seeds, nuts, and anything else they can eat. It’s hard not to love the antics of squirrels (provided they are not in your attic) in the fall. These little creatures embody the busybody spirit of Autumn, emboldened by their need to survive through the Spring.

Two squirrels playing in crook of a tree bough
The playfulness of squirrels is not to be underestimated. These little rodents are a blast to watch.
A fat squirrel standing in a bed of autumn leaves looks at the camera
Working to get as fat as possible, this squirrel appears to be doing good work.

Like Spring, the amount of light we receive is less than what we would see in the summer, but how beautiful it is. The sun goes lower in the horizon at all points in the day, and the light appears softer and golden.  The light goes through more of the atmosphere, causing the higher temperature colors (such as blue and violet) to reflect out of the visible light spectrum. It does not take all the higher temperature light away completely, but it leaves the lower color temperatures, such as red, orange, and yellow, more prominent, which is pleasing to our eyes.

A landscape in Valley Forge, there is golden grass and tree covered hills
A field of grass in Valley Forge as the low sun hits from the side.
Downtown Philadelphia in fall with the Schuylkill river
Late afternoon sun creates some incredible pictures.

As temperatures drop and days shorten, trees stop producing chlorophyll, which soon breaks down leaving the underlying pigments prominent. This lays bare the other pigments that were previously overwhelmed by green. This gives us brilliant reds, oranges, yellows, purples, and yes, brown (which, by the way, is a hue of orange. The more you know).

Two skyscrapers emerge from a foreground of trees in full autumn colors
Philadelphia’s two Comcast towers nestled among turning leaves
Cityscape in the distance with a forest in fall colors in the foreground
Mont Royal in Montreal provides a beautiful view in the Fall.

Eventually the color show ends and  leaves are sealed off from the branch by the tree, die and fall off, but even then fall is revealing something new and interesting. The look of fall reinvents itself many times over, giving us a season of great variation.

Skyscrapers rise from trees in fall colors
Even as these leaves come closer and closer to death, they still look a  degree of colorful.
Trees with smily faces spraypainted on
The trees are losing their leaves, but at least they have a sense of humor about it.

Why does this matter? How does this make Autumn the best season? It must be that the oncoming winter causes outspoken woodland creatures to work overtime to find food. Or perhaps it is people going to as many different events as possible to make use of the remaining good weather. Or maybe all of the environmental conditions combining to create beautiful views. Likely, it is all these factors and admittedly some personal taste that makes Autumn the best season. It is great happenstance that these factors combine to make the world look beautiful this fine season.

A park bench oversees a lake
Morning sun and mist makes for lovely colors in the fall.
A blurry cityscape and sunset as seen through tall grass in the foreground
This sunset lit up a relatively cloudless sky.
Dramatic sunrise colors display on clouds with city buildings in silhouette in foreground
Sunrises can be absolutely wild if the conditions are right.

Read more:
ESF Office of Communications, ESF College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Why Leaves Change Color. https://www.esf.edu/ecenter/eis/leaves.php.

US Department of Commerce, NOAA, National Weather Service. (2017, October 02). The Color of Clouds. https://www.noaa.gov/jetstream/clouds/color-of-clouds