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Yes, a hot, dry summer can delay and dull fall colors

Record summer heat could delay and lessen the vibrancy of leaf peeping, but experts still expect a more vibrant fall than the one last year.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — It's officially fall -- the autumnal equinox has replaced summertime humidity with a force, bringing cool, crisp air over a nice stretch of days. 

We're feeling the excitement about this refreshing relief, while also 'turning' our attention to another fall favorite -- fall foliage.

After all, we live in one of the most beautiful states for leaf peeping. The North Carolina mountains are bustling with visitors in September and October, because the Blue Ridge Parkway is particularly stunning with the vibrancy of fall. Adventure seekers know the Linn Cove viaduct in Newland looks like a postcard of perfection. 


But, in case you haven't heard, NOAA revealed we just had the hottest summer in 126 years, and it could threaten to de-rail the splendor of fall foliage. So, is it true a really hot summer, like the one we just had, means a less-colorful leaf peeping season?



This is true.

Yes, a hot and dry summer can dull and delay the peak of leaf season, but we are expecting a more vibrant fall than last year.


The fall foliage quality depends on more than just summertime temperature trends.

Robinson explained, "Temperature and moisture are the main influences that affect autumn colors. A severe summer drought can delay the onset of fall by a few weeks, and a warm period during fall can lower the intensity of fall colors."

She said North Carolina's leaf patterns move from west to east across the state, with the first leaves in western NC forecasted to peak the first week of October 11 this year.

"Compared to last year, we can expect a more vibrant transition. The dry spell of summer 2020 stressed the trees and led to OK colors and earlier droppings," she noted.

App State's fall color map for NC shows Western NC in purple, red and dark orange, meaning they'll be the first to peak in early-to-mid-October. But, Central NC, in yellow, won't peak until late October.

Credit: Appalachian State University

All in all, it should be a leaf season worth enjoying, and with the woes of 2020 driving interest in outdoor escapes, you'll want to plan your leaf peeping plans now.

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