It's hard to believe that summer has already passed us by here in the Northern Hemisphere.
The season officially rolls over from summer to autumn just before 4 a.m. on Monday morning.
You know what that means — cooler mornings, mild afternoons, pumpkin-spiced everything, and of course when the trees start to turn all sorts of wonderful fall shades.
So how is the foliage shaping up for this year? Well, dust off them phone cameras and get those Instagram filters ready! Let's dive into the fall foliage forecast this year for our region.
The coloring of the leaves, in general, has everything to do with how they get their nutrients from the sunlight, of course.
Chlorophyll is the primary reason for this, which leaves produce in abundance during the warm and long daylight hours of the spring and summer.
As summer fades to fall, the days get shorter and temperatures get cooler, and this leads to a slowing and eventual stopping of chlorophyll production in the leaves.
This process allows the other pigments in the leaves to shine through.
Weather-wise, the key to the perfect coloring is all in the temperatures.
Cool, crisp mornings with mild afternoons are ideal for the leaf changing process.
You do not want temperatures to get too cold (below freezing) too quickly because that can disrupt the process and lead to more muted colors.
Similarly, though, prolonged warmth into fall can also mute the coloring as well.
Precipitation also plays a role.
Some dryness into fall is fine, but you do not want it to be too dry or the leaves or peak coloring can be both muted and quick to “brown out” meaning the leave do not remain on the trees for as long as usual.
So far this September, we are running extremely dry, tied for the driest on record in fact as of the writing of this forecast.
Our region is pretty unique in the considerable changes in geography between our eastern zones around the Chesapeake Bay and the western, mountain zones.
Higher elevated areas get cooler, faster and therefore will see the leaves changing colors first.
Given both our late start to spring (recall June started off quite cool in our region) and the extended warmth so far through late summer, and the forecast for the warmer than normal conditions to continue into October, we are expecting a later than normal peak fall foliage peak across our region, likely by one to two weeks.
Although the trees had ample moisture at the start of the filling season in the spring, they will suffer a little bit here due to the recent dryness.
Colors will likely be slightly muted as a result of both this and the warmth, but that does not mean it will not be good color, just that conditions are not ideal for those perfectly vibrant, peak colors.
Given the forecast, we still believe we are about two weeks away from seeing good coloring starting to pop up in the mountain.
From there the colors should progress southeast towards the open Chesapeake, where the water temperatures keep conditions warmer for longer, through the middle of November.