How’s the Fall Foliage 2022 Forecast Looking? | Q&A With Yankee Foliage Expert Jim Salge

How big of an impact will drought have on the 2022 fall foliage? We caught up with Yankee foliage expert Jim Salge for the full scoop.

By Aimee Tucker

Sep 12 2022

Brightest Foliage Colors

Warm sunny days and cool crisp nights bring out the best fall colors in New England.

Photo Credit : Jim Salge

Ready for another colorful New England fall foliage season? I know I am — and so is Jim Salge, Yankee’s resident foliage expert. A former meteorologist at the Mount Washington Observatory, Jim is a photographer, outdoor enthusiast, and high school science teacher who loves exploring and documenting the New England landscape year-round, but he’s busiest in fall.

Every year starting in August, Jim gets to work reporting on foliage for Yankee’s digital and social channels, offering forecast updates and insight into where to find the best color from September through October. With his first forecast for the 2022 season hot off the digital presses (see New England Fall Foliage | 2022 Forecast), I sat down with Jim to chat about the basics of foliage science, plus key predictions for this year’s forecast and tips for planning travel itineraries around peak fall color.

Fall Foliage 2021 | Q&A with Expert Jim Salge

First, let’s recap the basics. What makes for a “good” foliage year? 

New England rarely disappoints, because our average climate brings about great fall foliage. But if I could create the ideal setup, I’d want a reasonably long-lasting snowpack in winter, a reasonably wet spring, a normal summer without too much heat and humidity, and — this is the key — a fall with crisp, cold nights and warm, sunny days. That’s going to give you the best color. 

So how’s the fall foliage 2022 forecast looking so far?

Great in northern New England! The big story this year is the drought, but it’s far less dry up north. In traditional areas for foliage tourism, the color will be bright and timely. Southern New England is a little bit trickier, with possible early browning and leaf drop brought on by dry conditions. But drought isn’t necessarily a bad thing…

How do the drought conditions impact the foliage, and where might that be an issue this year?’

New England’s forests are overall quite resilient against drought — far more than lawns and urban trees. How they respond to dry conditions can actually enhance fall foliage displays, with red pigments (called anthocyanins) being produced in abundance in response to drought stress. These displays are often bright, but brief. 

The best case scenario during a drought year is that it is accompanied by early snaps of cold air to kickstart the displays. If it’s too warm for too long, the positive effects are reduced. 

What is the “backyard effect” and how does it relate to foliage, especially this year?

In the New England ski industry, when there’s no snow in Boston or New York (aka in many backyards), people tend to visit the mountains less, even when the skiing is great. Similarly, with the drought impacting the coast and parts of southern New England, we worry that people won’t venture out to see the colors, thinking it won’t be worth it. We are fairly confident that the fall colors will be great this year, in and across the most popular leaf-peeping places, so make those plans!

Jim Salge
Photo Credit : Mark Fleming

What will you be watching for in the next few weeks, as we wait for the real foliage to arrive? 

Some rain would certainly be helpful, especially in southern New England. It’s just been so dry there, and some of the leaves are browning and dropping already. You can’t recover from that, but where trees are working through the stress, a bit of rain will help.

Otherwise, we’re just hoping for the beautiful fall weather that New England is known for. Warm, sunny days and crisp, cool nights are what always bring out the best fall colors! 

Many people saw the effects of the Spongy Moth this year across New England. How will that affect leaf peeping this year? 

There are definitely areas all over New England that saw entire forest areas devoured by hungry caterpillars this year. These were typically mixed oak forests in lower to middle elevations, and the impact, while significant, was sporadic. 

The forests that were defoliated did try to put out a second growth of leaves, but the dry conditions left them quite small. If you encounter such areas in your leaf-peeping journeys this fall, you will be able to drive through or around them.

For folks who want to target peak color, when is the best time to plan a New England foliage getaway, day trip, or road trip this year? 

We think that the peak fall colors will arrive on time in northern New England, so as soon as late September you will see peak colors arriving in higher elevations of northern New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine. From there, through October, the peak colors will slide downhill, southward, and towards the coast. 

In southern New England, it’s a concern that the weather may stay warm well into fall, which might slow and extend the peak progression. It’s likely that without a big shot of cool air, bright fall foliage will be visible along the coast past Halloween.

What are you most looking forward to seeing and doing this season?

While the leaves are beautiful in New England, I think I’m most looking forward to all the wonderful fall traditions that have been so different the last few years throughout the pandemic. I hope to attend the Deerfield Fair with my kids, go apple and pumpkin picking, and I can’t wait for warm cider donuts on a frosty fall morning! 

You highlighted some of your favorite fall drives in the 2022 fall issue of Yankee. With the latest forecast in mind, what’s a worthy drive you’d add to the list?

I’ve gone up to Pittsburg, New Hampshire early in the season for the last few years, and I cannot recommend that area enough for early foliage. The Connecticut Lakes are remote, beautiful, and look amazing on a misty fall morning, whether you are early or late for the peak foliage, or time it perfectly. So I would say the most northern portion of Rt.3 in New Hampshire is my newest best recommendation.

So, speaking both for visitors and for locals looking to amp up their foliage road trips or staycations, how can we plan where and when to go this year?

Right here on and the Yankee social channels! In addition to the initial 2022 forecast, stay tuned for forecast updates in September and October; plus, once the color arrives, check out our weekly “Where to See Peak Foliage Now” series. Also on you’ll find a peak foliage map, state foliage guides, ways to see foliage by train or boat, road trip itineraries, and where to find the best cider doughnuts, apple orchards, corn mazes, and more.

See More:

14 Favorite Fall Drives in New England

Prettiest Fall Foliage Villages in Vermont

10 Best Places to Visit in New England in Fall