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Make Me Smart with Kai and Molly

Amid climate change worries, a good year for fall foliage

Dan Weissmann Oct 16, 2013
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Fall colors are big business. The Wisconsin Department of Tourism estimates direct tourist spending at more than a billion dollars.

The state also pours millions into promotions, like this TV ad in which a Green Bay Packers receiver runs into a tree in black-and-white Kansas, and wakes up in brilliant Wisconsin. When the good witch tells him he can go home any time he wants, it’s bad news.

Tourism officials say the state’s not seeing dampened colors or tourist traffic at this point. Innkeepers back them up.

Jean Hayes and her husband run the Inn on Hillwind, near Sheboygan. It’s peak leaf-peeping season there right now.  “For the next three weekends, yes, we’re looking very good,” she says.

Howie Neufeld, a biology professor at Appalachian State University, watches the studies on how climate change may affect fall colors.

“I think that some of these changes could be subtle,” he says. “And I think there’ll still be pretty colors. I just think they’ll be different colors.”

But the color green — as in money — will stay part of the picture.

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