Recent Rains May Help But Experts Say Dry Summer Could Hurt Chances for Fall Colors

fall-leavesAs summer gives way to autumn, many people are eyeing the October calendar to pick the best weekend to view fall colors, but Virginia Tech tree physiology specialist John Seiler says the lack of rainfall since the beginning of August has the potential to hurt chances for better than average color this fall.

“There’s still time,” says Seiler. “We really need some rainfall in the next two weeks in order to enhance our most vivid colors. Recent rain in western and southwestern Virginia has helped, but we certainly need more.”

Seiler says predicting fall color peak dates is an inexact science.

“It’s impossible to plug in temperatures, rainfall, and tree species and get a time for peak viewing,” says Seiler. “Dry weather in August and September has the effect of de-synchronizing the process. That’s the reason many already see trees turning yellow and losing their leaves early.”

Length of daylight is also key to enhancing the most vivid splashes of reds and yellows.

Virginia forests offer a greater mix of trees, compared to other areas of the country, leading to a wider diversity of color once the leaves do begin to turn. For this year, Seiler projects a possible peak weekend of October 22 and 23, but warns that can vary by as much as seven days, plus or minus, depending on a variety of conditions.