Cooler weather brings fall colors throughout New York. A weekly state-issued report tells where to find peak colors throughout the fall.
Staff, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
Wondering where to see the most spectacular fall foliage in 2018?
Head to the Adirondacks, said Taryn Bauerle, Cornell University associate professor of plant science.
And indeed, the first signs of color began appearing in the Adirondacks Sept. 12, according to observers for the Empire State Development Division of Tourism’s I Love New York program, with a 10 percent change evident already in the Thousand Island-Seaway region.
“There will be a difference in leaf color across the state this year, but the Adirondacks should be the most spectacular, with lots of reds and purples,” predicted Bauerle, whose research focuses on how plants communicate water stress.
As for the rest of New York state?
The colors of the 2018 fall foliage season will be delayed and less vibrant.
“The Goldilocks of fall colors is warm sunny days followed by cool nights,” said Bauerle. “Right now, New York has had very wet and warm weather that will delay changes in foliage and lessen their vibrancy. Therefore, we can expect fall foliage to be less vivid this year.”
In the second week of September, the Steuben County Conference & Visitors Bureau reported the leaves in the Finger Lakes region were still green, with no change in color,
“We are definitely on the warm side this year and all of the rainfall we are getting will delay the color change a little bit,” Bauerle said, noting that according to the National National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, New York has had the the 10th wettest and fourth warmest August weather on record
In New England, forecasters are predicting a fairly normal season, with the peak reaching Vermont in early October.
“Earlier this year, I would have predicted a late turn, but we’ve already had a couple of cold nights in Maine and once the color starts, it does come quickly,” said Pete Geiger, an editor with Farmers’ Almanac.
Northern Vermont will experience peak Sept. 24-Oct. 10, with the southern part of the state in peak Oct. 5-14, according to the Almanac.
The Farmers’ Almanac predicts Sept. 28-Oct. 28 to be the peak foliage dates in New York, depending on elevation and distance from the coast.
“I think it (fall color) will arrive ‘on time’ as long as Mother Nature has a calendar,” added Geiger.
Predicting fall color
The fall foliage forecast is not an exact science. “Mother Nature can be tricky,” Baurele said.
“There are a lot of factors that come into play when you think about how the trees are going to behave. The most important factor, the shortening of the day length, is the driver for leaves to change color.”
Environmental conditions are also part of the equation, including how warm the fall days are combined with how warm or cool fall nights are. “Those are the major factors that come into play.”
And indeed a few nights where the temperatures have hit the mid-40 degree mark in Maine have started the process there, said the Farmers’ Almanac’s Geiger. “You can see the change starting already.”
Temperature and moisture are also major drivers of the fall foliage display.
“As with most principles, a lot of anything isn’t good,” explained Baurele.
“Too little water and warm temperatures increases the chances of early leaf fall and hence poor fall colors. Too much water and warm temperatures increases the likelihood of diseases.”
When the season has been wet and warm, as it has been in the Hudson Valley, the change of color can be delayed. “The trees are kind of tricked into thinking it’s still summer and they are happy to continue photosynthesis and maintaining their green.”
The Adirondacks have not experienced the somewhat tropical weather that has been the spring and summer hallmarks in the Hudson Valley, Baurele said.
In the worst-case scenario, an extremely dry summer can severely impact the color.
“When the trees are quite stressed, that is the worst for color. The trees tend to shrivel up their leaves and drop them prematurely in a way to save water. You get a lot of brown.”
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