Fall Foliage Update: Changing Of Leaves ‘Severely Stunted’ By Record Warmth

By Terry Eliasen, Meteorologist, WBZ-TV Exec. Weather Producer

BOSTON (CBS) — Columbus Day weekend is upon us and folks all around New England are literally heading for the hills in search of fall color. Every foliage season is different of course, but this year in particular has been quite abnormal, thanks in large part to the weather.

It is a delicate balance to achieve the perfect foliage season. You need a good amount of spring and summer rainfall and most importantly an autumn with mild days and cool nights. Those chilly evenings are key in kickstarting the color surge and typically, beginning in mid to late September, the nighttime chill arrives in northern New England and slowly spreads southward by early October.

This fall has been vastly different. In fact, for most of the climate measuring locations throughout New England, the last three to four weeks have been the warmest ever recorded for those dates. This record-setting warmth has severely stunted the annual turning of the leaves, currently lagging two to three weeks behind the typical foliage schedule.

In addition to the unseasonably warm weather this year, we have had some tree fungus to deal with. You may have noticed some black spots on your maple leaves. This “black tar fungus” has been widespread this year throughout our region. While it typically doesn’t lead to any permanent tree damage, it has caused some dulling of the fall color and premature leaf drop.

OK, so enough of the Debbie Downer foliage chatter: If you’re heading north this weekend, the news isn’t all bad! In fact, recent reports are that much of northern New England and higher elevated areas are finally bursting to life!

2017 fall foliage columbus Fall Foliage Update: Changing Of Leaves Severely Stunted By Record Warmth

(WBZ-TV graphic)

After a dull start, we are hearing reports of a sudden and spectacular color surge in just the past few days. Areas closest to peaking this weekend (between 60 to 80 percent) include all of northern Maine and New Hampshire (White Mountains), northeast Vermont and much of the higher elevations in the Green Mountains.

A bit farther south (Central NH, Lake Winni, Monadnock Region), there are splashes of peak color, but still likely a week or so away from ultimate peak. In southern New England, you may find scattered areas of color, but it will be mid to late October before most of our trees finally respond.

2017 lakes and mountains Fall Foliage Update: Changing Of Leaves Severely Stunted By Record Warmth

(WBZ-TV graphic)

As for the forecast, we’re looking at a very unusual Columbus Day weekend. It will feel more like a classic summer weekend with high humidity and temperatures climbing well into the 80s by Sunday. You’ll have to dodge a few scattered showers Saturday and Sunday (certainly no washouts), but Monday just looks plain wet. The remnants of Nate will likely arrive during the morning on Monday in southern New England and in the afternoon hours in central and northern New England.

Enjoy the fall colors and send us your pics! (weather@wbztv.com)

Follow Terry on Twitter @TerryWBZ.

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