During a recent hike, I passed a stately, gnarled old apple tree on the edge of a farm field. It was heavily laden with fruit this year, and though they were far from ripe, their emerging flavors instantly transported my mind to one of those perfect autumn days, picking apples under endless blue skies, warm […]
A train travels through Crawford Notch during peak foliage in 2014.
Photo Credit : Jim Salge
During a recent hike, I passed a stately, gnarled old apple tree on the edge of a farm field. It was heavily laden with fruit this year, and though they were far from ripe, their emerging flavors instantly transported my mind to one of those perfect autumn days, picking apples under endless blue skies, warm sunshine with a cool breeze. On a hot August day, it seemed a world away.
It’s hard to fathom therefore that such days are really right around the corner in New England, as is the beautiful fall foliage for which the region is known. Perhaps, the mind has been trained to ignore the subtle signs already emerging until after the Labor Day holiday, but the transition has already begun. Nights are shorter, mornings are cooler, goldenrod is in bloom, and the asters are emerging. A few maple trees in the wetlands are also beginning to transition to red, precursors to the coming show. Over the coming weeks, more and more trees will join them in donning their autumn colors. It’s a scene that is celebrated across the region, with visitors from all over the world. The show rarely disappoints, as spectacular foliage results from normal New England weather. But every autumn season can show considerable variability, from early to late, muted to vibrant, and from predominantly yellow to overwhelmingly red. Many of the factors that affect the foliage season are already set, and thus it time to put out our first 2015 New England Fall Foliage Report. These factors aren’t precisely understood, but in general the best years follow a seasonably mild and reasonably wet spring, a summer with adequate but not excessive rainfall, and most importantly, a dominance of warm, sunny days and cool nights in the fall. Scanning the seasonal averages this year would generally indicate a great setup for the fall colors this autumn in New England.Looking back at the past year, one can’t help but remember the winter that was; a winter that will go down in history across the region for its incredible snow totals, and persistent cold. Over 80 inches of snow fell on Boston in less than a month, on route to a record breaking total of over nine feet. Blue Hill Observatory saw their greatest snow depth ever, while stories of roof collapses, mass transit disruptions, and icebergs around Cape Cod led the nightly news hour. It was a winter without a January thaw, followed by a February which set a new standard for cold in many New England towns. Bangor, Maine, recorded their coldest month ever with an average temperature of just six degrees Fahrenheit, while Boston fell below zero three times, exceeding the total for the last ten years combined. Temperatures remained below normal through April across New England, and with many areas not breaking through the 70 degree mark until early May. This led to a late leaf out of our foliage canopy region wide.
The precipitation over New England largely cut off in mid-February, and little more rain or snow fell until after leaf out in late May. The spring ranked in the bottom five for rainfall, and precipitation deficits ranged five to ten inches below normal for the year at the beginning of June. In this year of extremes, though, the precipitation pendulum swung back in June towards excessive rainfall.
To summarize the seasonal setup for fall foliage so far, the yearly averages of slightly dry, and slightly warm should be great news for the show of autumn colors. There are many areas where the sum of the seasons has yielded a fine forest canopy. In order to bring out the brightest foliage colors, we will need rather ideal early autumn conditions. This would mean an abundance of sunshine, occasional replenishing rainfall, and generally warm days and cool nights. Across most of the country, the biggest player driving the weather patterns this autumn will be the emerging strong El Nino, but in New England, there are much stronger correlations between this phenomena and winter/spring conditions than in fall. It seems that the long range outlooks are calling for normal precipitation, with mild temperatures. The best news though, is that El Nino greatly reduces the chances of a landfalling tropical system, which would be devastating to the season’s prospects at this point. Putting all this together, and to make our official first 2015 New England Peak Fall Foliage Forecast, we expect the season to be a bit earlier than the long term averages, with conditions ranging from fair to very good. This wide range could potentially occur across rather small geographic areas, with soil depth, elevation, aspect and terrain all having a greater than normal influence over the foliage this year. Coastal areas are most likely to have a banner year, while the inland hills and mountains will feature the greatest variability. Traveling through a notch, or to a neighboring valley will likely yield wholly different conditions, and some of the foliage that you find will, no doubt, be amazing. To help in the planning process, YankeeFoliage.com offers a number of tools. To see current conditions across New England, or to submit your own reports, you can visit our:
Live Interactive Foliage MapTo see some of our favorite foliage routes across New England, visit our:
Suggested New England Foliage Drives
And when you are on the road, you can keep up with the latest foliage news, and submit photo reports with our:
Mobile New England Foliage App
And of course, we will be updating this blog weekly through early November, highlighting foliage conditions, as well as information on travel, photography and New England autumn events.
We hope that you follow along with us through this most amazing season!