The Great Fall Valley in Vermont is home to an incredible view of fall foliage as the leaves begin to change color. weather.com Photo/Eric Fisher
Football, foliage and falling temps. The three F's of autumn are here.
The persistent rainy pattern in the Mid-Atlantic, Midwest and Southeast this year has some wondering if fall foliage will be a washout.
“If the weather is rainy and cloudy and warm it’s going to be a duller color season,” said Kathy Matthews, associate professor of botany with Western Carolina University. “If it’s sunny and dry with temperatures falling, then that portends a brilliant fall color season.”
Matthews tracks fall foliage in the Appalachians each autumn. She says September’s weather is the key to the foliage forecast.
“The perfect conditions for brilliant foliage are bright sunny days in September before the temperatures start to fall, so the trees can produce a lot of sugars,” said Matthews. “Those sugars in the leaves are what will produce the red pigments in the fall.”
Marek Rzonca with The Foliage Network, which tracks foliage in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast and the upper Midwest, agrees that when it comes to foliage forecasting it’s all about the future, not the past.
“Weather in September and October will have the biggest influence on the foliage season,” said Rzonca. “For the regions we cover, spring and summer have produced normal- to above- normal precipitation. Based on that we are currently anticipating a great foliage season.”
Has the summer of rain affected the future of 2013’s foliage?
“(The current rain) probably won’t have any effect on the foliage. The trees are very full and healthy with lots of green foliage, so that’s a good thing,” said Matthews. “They haven’t started dropping their leaves early. Summer rain shouldn’t affect the fall foliage color.”
(MORE: Fall 2013 Outlook)
As for the most brilliant colors of fall, Matthews knows exactly which trees to keep an eye on.
“The red maples turn a brilliant red, the sweet birches turn a golden yellow, sourwoods turn a nice brick red, the yellow buckeyes turn orange,” said Matthews. ”The dogwoods turn a nice red color.”