A powerful storm system is brining rain, wind, and cooler weather to the region this weekend. All of that may spell the beginning of the end of our “leaf peeping” season.
By most accounts, the leaves in Northern New England are on the downhill side of peak color and the leaves in Southern New England are just about there. After several inches of rain this weekend and frequent gusts of 40-50 mph, there may not be too many leaves left on the trees next week. Knowing that it might be “now or never” my wife and I took a drive down the Mohawk Trail earlier this week to check out the scenery. Here’s just a sampling…
Typically, peak fall color occurs in mid-late October across most of MA. So what determines the arrival of fall color?!? The weather and climate of course. Climate Central offers this explanation:
In general, temperatures and precipitation in a particular year are useful predictors for when that burst of color will occur at a certain latitude. Moderate heat stress tends to delay leaf turn, while high heat stress or drought will cause colors to appear earlier and disappear faster. An increase in precipitation will usually delay the appearance of color, but too much rain could be a stressor for the trees, and, just like a drought, cause leaves to change early.
So given the record dry weather this summer, we expected this foliage season to start earlier than normal and be duller than normal. Assuming we are nearing the end of the foliage season, we are only slightly ahead of schedule. What about the color? Well, I can’t speak for everyone but I can tell you my backyard isn’t as colorful this year. Leaves that were bright yellow in my yard this time last year turned brown several weeks ago and are now falling off. Is this a sign of things to come?!?
Well, its complicated. As you know, the climate is changing. That means both temperature and precipitation patterns are changing. There is no doubt that temperatures are trending upwards almost everywhere. But precipitation is a bit less uniform – some areas are getting drier, and some areas are getting wetter. The Northeast US is one of the areas that is expected to get wetter as the century wears on. So while this year’s drought may not be an indication of our future climate, the shorter foliage season might be. Climate Central explains:
Projections for the end of the century suggest the warmer temperatures would delay the onset of peak colors, but also make them disappear sooner, leading to a shorter season. Nationwide precipitation projections are a bit less certain, but signs point to an increase in the Northeast, further delaying fall colors there. The effects of this are both ecologically and economically important. Leaf-peeping is a multi-billion dollar a year ecotourism industry for many states.
How about a shorter term forecast…
We are expecting another round of rain on Saturday but it won’t be as impressive as last night’s rainfall. Officially, Worcester got 4.10″ of rain which easily breaks the record for the day of 2.96″ set in 1995. Unofficially, there were reports of over 5″ of rain in Worcester. Today we might tack on another .25″ to .50″ of rain. The chance for showers comes to an end this evening, but as that happens, the wind really starts to pick up. A wind advisory has been issued for most of the area for Saturday evening through Sunday afternoon. Wind gusts of 40-50 mph will be possible. Wet leaves still clinging to the trees will make it easier for winds of that magnitude to bring down branches.
After a few lingering clouds Sunday morning, we should finally see more sunshine Sunday afternoon. Winds remain gusty and with temperatures only in the 50s, it will definitely feel fall like.
A weak disturbance passes through the area Sunday night into Monday morning. That might bring a few showers. Otherwise, cloudy skies early Monday will mix with more sun late in the day. High temps on Monday will be in the upper 50s, near or slightly below average for late October.
The cool air keeps coming! High temps will struggle to reach the 50 degree mark for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Overnight temps will drop well down into the 30s in Boston and as low as the 20s in the suburbs.
The middle part of the week will be dry, but there are some indications that we are in for another round of rain next Friday.
Happy leaf raking!!