Learn more about what to expect for this year’s autumn color in our 2017 New England fall foliage forecast update.
By Jim Salge
Sep 19 2017
Trees around Coffin Pond In Franconia, New Hampshire are speckled red already, a bit ahead of normal.Photo Credit : John Compton
About a month ago we issued our 2017 New England fall foliage forecast, and in it we said we were more optimistic about the color this year than we’ve been in a number of years. Winter snowfall had pulled us out of a historic drought, and spring and summer featured mild weather with moderate rainfall. Forests in the region were healthy and primed for what could be a fine autumn show.
And … the story went viral.
Our outlook was shared hundreds of times, and then hundreds of newspapers and dozens of magazines quoted our piece, all foretelling an awesome season in our beautiful region. This certainly puts the pressure on Mother Nature (who has proven a bit less than kind recently) to come through in the fall foliage forecast department down the final stretch.
While the setup this year is great, we still need classic New England weather leading up to the onset of the fall colors to ensure that they really pop. This means we need a September and early October with warm, sunny days; cool nights; limited hard frosts; and limited yet adequate rainfall. It’s our typical weather, and the reason why our typical foliage is spectacular.
Here’s how it works:. While the orange and yellow pigments are in the leaves all year, masked by the dominant green chlorophyll, red colors are produced in fall in response to warm, sunny weather. And the cool nights help kill off the chlorophyll quickly while the other pigments remain.
And the good news? The weather here continues to be favorable for a great season throughout most of the region. New Englanders have awoken to cool, crisp mornings, with temperatures as low as the mid-thirties in each of the past few weeks, with some intermittent rainfall between otherwise brilliant blue skies.
The trees have responded to this early ideal weather by showing some great color in the locations that typically turn earliest. The Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, the northern White Mountains of New Hampshire, and the mountains of western Maine are showing speckles of red in a sea of trees on the verge of turning.
This is definitely a few days to a week early in these spots, and we will have to monitor to see if the fall foliage forecast progression trends early throughout the rest of the region over the next eight weeks.
Additionally, throughout New England’s wetlands the red maples (aka swamp maples) are really putting on a show this year. Bright, lasting red foliage in these spots is usually a great sign for the season overall — as well as an opportunity to seek out some terrific early scenes.
There’s one more odd phenomenon that we’ve been hearing a lot about this year, and we aren’t sure what to make of it. There are lots of maples all over New England that have a few branches turning early. Maybe tied to the drought last year? We honestly don’t have an answer for that one!
Looking ahead, climatologists are expecting above-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation through the end of September. As long as this outlook allows for sunny days and some cool nights, we will continue to see great fall color emerge.
Optimists, therefore, are still very much encouraged by this year’s fall foliage forecast prospects. But let’s not forget the pessimists among us, as we have been getting a lot of questions about what could still go wrong.
The biggest factor that can limit fall color at this point is warm nights and/or persistent clouds and rainfall. Considering how active the tropics have been, this scenario certainly bears watching, as it does every year.
Second, there were some localized problems that we highlighted this year. There are some areas where defoliation by gypsy moths and winter moths will lead to areas of muted colors. There are other places with some leaf spot and premature browning. However, both of these situations seem to be limited to small geographical areas, and any leaf-peeping road trip should allow you to drive through them.
Finally, any time there is a major event like last year’s drought, there are lingering effects. A negative influence on this year’s foliage is becoming less and less likely, but at this point only time will tell.
Now, with colors already emerging, our New England fall foliage feed changes from predictive to observational. Our network of fall foliage enthusiasts and photographers are checking in and sharing images. We hope you do, too, through ourlive peak-foliage app, or tag your photos on Instagram and Twitterwith #NEFoliage and #MyNewEngland.
Not long now!