(WGHP) – Cooler weather, pumpkin spice, soup season and an abundance of color are all things we look forward to in the Fall months.
The question is, when will we finally start to see the vibrant colors across our state and are the 80 degree temperatures impacting when the leaves are expected to change?
How does the weather affect Fall foliage?
Temperature and moisture play an important role in the leaf color of fall foliage as well as how long the leaves take to change or how quickly they fall off the tree.
According to the National Environmental Education Foundation, the most ideal weather conditions for a great fall foliage season is a wet growing season (spring) followed by dry, sunny days and cool nights.
An abundance of rainfall leading up to Autumn also allows the color of the leaves to pop more.
Cooler temperatures slow the production of chlorophyll, which gives leaves their green color. As the chlorophyll declines, the yellow and orange leaf colors emerge.
Purple and red colors emerge due to an increase in sugar concentrations.
If temperatures are too warm, it can trigger a premature leaf drop and it can lower the intensity of the colors.
Another weather extreme that can impact fall foliage is hurricane season, which is active through the end of November. Hurricanes can leave salt residue on trees which will cause cell and tissue damage to the leaves.
Big wind and rain events, like hurricanes, can knock leaves off trees before they have the chance to change colors.
Drought can also cause issues with the changing colors because it adds stress to the trees. Drought can lead to increased insects invading the trees and it can lead to disease, both of which can make the leaves fall prematurely.
When does the Tar Heel State typically see peak fall foliage?
Peak fall foliage varies upon location and elevation across North Carolina.
The highest elevations in the mountains such as Grandfather Mountain and Linville, NC see peak fall foliage in mid-October while the foothills typically see peak foliage by late October.
The Piedmont Triad reaches peak fall foliage around early November while eastern North Carolina and the coastal plains typically don’t see the best fall color until mid to late November.
From October 10 through the 17, peak fall foliage can be observed 3,000-4,000 feet or more above sea level. This includes places like Boone, Blowing Rock, Banner Elk as well as the Pisgah National Forest.
October 17 through October 24 is typically when foliage peaks for places around 2,000 to 3,000 feet above sea level. For those looking to go searching for the vibrant colors, this is when you’d likely want to take a trip to Asheville, Hendersonville or Brevard.
Looking Glass Rock is also a popular spot to visit during this time of year.
Once we reach the last week of October and early November, the fall foliage begins to peak in our own backyards! Wilkes and Surry counties can typically see peak foliage around October 24 through October 31.
That means you’d be able to see the gorgeous colors in Pilot Mountain, NC around Halloween!
The remainder of the Triad sees the best, most vibrant colors during the first week in November.
Where are the leaves already changing colors?
While it may be early October, some areas in the United States are already experiencing peak fall foliage.
Most locations that see the beautiful colors this early are the higher elevations in areas like the Adirondacks and the Rocky Mountains.
The Tar Heel State is not quite ready for the fall colors and part of the reason has to do with lingering warm weather. It’s also just a little early to see fall foliage in North Carolina.
Some color is starting to show in the highest elevations of the mountains, like Mt. Mitchell. However, peak foliage, like we discussed earlier, doesn’t typically occur until mid-October for the highest peaks.
Not much is going on color wise across the majority of North Carolina but you may notice some slight color changes in a few leaves.
Typically cooler temperatures are a trigger for the leaves to start changing. With that being said, the cooler, fall weather looks to arrive by the weekend and for the second week of October.
So, it won’t be long until we start to see the vibrant reds, yellows and oranges that we love so much!