The crisp and cool conditions early this morning may have put some of you in the mood to start thinking about fall colors, which in my opinion is one of the most beautiful aspects of life in the Twin Tiers! Each and every year we are treated to a magnificent display of foliage that only accentuates the beauty already provided by the rolling hills and winding rivers that make up the Tiers' landscape, but you've probably noticed that some years the display seems a bit more vibrant than others. Although not the only contributing factor, the weather does play a very imporant role in determining just how colorful our landscape will turn.
The single most important element in determining the vibrancy of fall foliage is temperature. Ideally the best foliage occurs when autumn days are mild and evenings are cool and crisp, but not below freezing. If daytime temperatures are too warm for a relatively long period of time, the colors may be less intense. The foliage season may also last one to two weeks longer. Frost tends to inhibit the production of anthocyanin, a pigment producing various shades of red. This is why having temperatures above freezing is advantageous. Believe it or not, temperatures in the springtime can also have an influence on fall foliage as a late spring may delay the color change by a week or two.
Annual precipitation, which provides moisture for soil and plant life, also plays a role in the foliage. A late spring, which delays the release of moisture through snowmelt, may push back the color change by nearly a week, sometimes longer in extreme cases. Severe drought often causes the leaves of young and distressed trees to turn brown and drop early.
The third parameter, wind, has a rather obvious impact on the fall foliage. Very windy conditions cause the leaves to drop, sometimes before full color has been reached. Therefore, calm winds are most favored during the foliage season. An unusually early season snowfall, such as what occurred during the infamous Columbus Day snowstorm of 1987, can also cause the leaves to drop prematurely by dragging them off the trees due to the shear weight of the snow.
As of today no significant color change has been observed throughout the Twin Tiers, although distressed and very young trees always have a tendency to change a bit earlier than the rest of the trees do. Typically foliage peaks in the Catskills during the last two weeks of September, and across the rest of the region during the first two weeks of October, and with the chilly overnight lows and mild daytime highs this week you can expect to see some color showing up relatively soon. Enjoy!