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VERIFY Snap: Fact-checking claims about the fall season

Autumn is here and the VERIFY team is answering a few questions about the fall season.

Fall is here and that means the air is getting crisp, pumpkin spice lattes are on the menu, and many of us have already broken out our favorite cozy sweaters to help keep us warm as the temperatures drop. 

This week, the VERIFY team answered three questions about the fall season as part of our “VERIFY Weekly” feature. You can watch the full video on our YouTube page here.

THE QUESTION

Do summer weather conditions affect fall leaf colors?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

   

This is true.

Yes, summer weather conditions do affect fall leaf colors, but the actual leaf outlook may vary based on your area. 

WHAT WE FOUND

In September, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) revealed that summer 2021 was the hottest on record in the U.S., and could threaten to de-rail the splendor of fall foliage.

According to Harvard Forest, Harvard University's 4,000-acre laboratory and classroom, summer conditions can take a toll on trees.   

“Summer drought conditions stress trees. They may thus lose their leaves prematurely or start color production prematurely. The result is a reduction of color during the peak of the season,” Harvard Forest said on its website. “Adequate summer rains promote good tree health, leaf retention and, therefore, color production during the autumn.”

Meteorologist Monique Robinson told VERIFY fall foliage quality depends on more than just summertime temperature trends.

"Temperature and moisture are the main influences that affect autumn colors,” said Robinson. “A severe summer drought can delay the onset of fall by a few weeks, and a warm period during fall can lower the intensity of fall colors."

Harvard Forest says the right weather during the fall can promote more intense leaf color production. The reds, or anthocyanins, require sunlight for production and are enhanced by cold and sunny days. Meanwhile, rainy and windy weather can knock leaves down prematurely, which could shorten the color display at its peak.

THE QUESTION

Is it true the sky is bluer in the fall than in the summer?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

   

This is true.

Yes, the sky appears bluer in the fall than in the summer. 

WHAT WE FOUND

Wondering why the sky is blue in the first place? According to NASA, when sunlight travels to the Earth’s atmosphere, it’s scattered in all directions because of gas and particles in the air. 

Light exists in different wavelengths. Even though sunlight looks white, it's actually made up of a rainbow of different colors. Blue waves are shorter and smaller than the other colors, so those wavelengths scatter more easily. 

In autumn, the blue color is often intensified by the position of the sun in the sky and the decreased humidity, which allows the light to scatter more evenly. 

THE QUESTION

Is there any pumpkin in pumpkin spice?

THE SOURCES

  • Ethan Frisch, spice expert and founder of Burlap and Barrel, a sustainable spice company
  • Lisa Andrews, licensed dietician and nutritionist and CEO of Sound Bite Nutrition

THE ANSWER

This is false.

No, pumpkin spice doesn't actually contain pumpkin.

WHAT WE FOUND

Whether you love it or hate it, pumpkin spice season is back in full swing! But what is actually in the pumpkin spice blend?

Ethan Frisch, a spice expert and owner of sustainable spice trading company Burlap and Barrel, told VERIFY, “There's no pumpkin content in pumpkin spice on its own.”  

Instead, pumpkin spice is a blend of typically four to five other spices that you probably already have in your cabinets: cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and allspice.

“Pumpkin spice has a confusing name, obviously, because there is no pumpkin in the spice. But it's a blend of different spices that historically were used with pumpkin and pumpkin pies or pumpkin puddings,” said Frisch. “It varies a lot depending on who's making it, but it's usually kind of warm, rich spices like ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, things like that. Pumpkin spice may be added to other things; those other things might have pumpkin in it.” 

It is still possible the pumpkin spice latte drink you order from your favorite coffee shop might in fact contain pumpkin, but it depends on where you’re getting it from. For instance, some coffee shops, including Starbucks, have added pumpkin puree to their blends.

More from VERIFY: No, pumpkin spice doesn't actually contain pumpkin

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