Biologist Dr. Howard Neufeld, Appalachian State University’s “Fall Color Guy,” says this year’s fall leaf color development is behind normal schedule due to warm weather, which is forecast to continue this week.

In analyzing the region’s temperatures, Neufeld has found the nighttime temperatures in the mountains of Western North Carolina are averaging 9 F above normal — the warmest September on record.

“This means that the current fall weather is unprecedented for as far back as weather measurements have been made. That being said, it also means that the responses of the trees to this unusual weather are also unprecedented, since they have never experienced this before,” said Neufeld, who teaches in Appalachian’s Department of Biology.

This past weekend, Neufeld visited Great Smoky Mountains National Park and drove home along the Blue Ridge Parkway — and the dominant color remains green, he said.

“Usually by this time of the year, the upper elevations above 5,000 feet have significant color,” he wrote in this week’s Fall Color Report posted on the Department of Biology website.

If these high temperatures persist much further into the fall color season, Neufeld said not only will colors be delayed, but they might be far reduced in quality.

“Some trees, like red maples and tulip poplars, may simply drop their leaves before they develop significant color, resulting in a fall color display somewhat like last year, which also had above normal fall temperatures,” he said.

In 2017, the “wild and mild weather upset the traditional coloring,” Neufeld wrote in last fall’s summary. When colors did develop, they were dominated by oranges and yellows, he said.

Article written By Linda Coutant, courtesy of Appalachian State University

Photo by Howard Neufeld