For perhaps the first time in 2020, something appears to be going right.
To our north, the foliage season is off to an early and spectacular start, veteran leaf-watchers report. And given the recent weather around here and the forecast for the next several days, prospects are excellent that the show will be quite dramatic when our turn comes, probably in about three weeks.
Some reds and yellows already are appearing in parts of Bucks and Montgomery Counties, the Pennsylvania Department of Natural Resources reported in its weekly update Thursday.
Tuesday’s widespread rains not only gave the trees a shot of life, they also marked a turning point in the seasons, said Paul Pastelok, a meteorologist with AccuWeather. “That was the end of summer,” he said, adding that it could be months before the air is as dense with water vapor as it was earlier in the week.
The rain and the outlook both bode well for the foliage. By ending a dry spell, the rain should slow leaf-fall, thus prolonging the peak-coloration period. Plus the forecast calls for a run of generally dry days and cool nights with low temperatures in the 40s, ideal for promoting color.
“That sounds amazing,” said Jim Saige, the foliage specialist for New England’s Yankee Magazine. Up that way, the season is off to a rocketing start, he said, maybe as much as a week to 10 days ahead of schedule.
He expects much of Vermont and New Hampshire to reach peak during the weekend. The northern tiers of the Green and White Mountains, where some areas remain in a state of “extreme drought,” according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, reached peak last weekend, he said.
The dryness, which can speed up the coloration process in which the green chlorophyll recedes in favor of the splashier pigments, likely has accelerated the season, Saige said. But did nothing to depress the color, thanks to a cool-down.
“It just exploded,” he said, “lots of red and lots of bright oranges.”
Something similar happened in northern Pennsylvania, the state conservation department said in its weekly report.
"Cold and frosty nights and very dry conditions have ushered in marked changes across the northern tier, where foliage is at its spectacular peak. Sugar and red maples are the stars of the show, contrasting beautifully with the still-green oak canopies.
“Another cold snap could jumpstart much of the Appalachian and Allegheny Mountain regions, setting the table for back to back weeks of fantastic fall foliage viewing opportunities across wide swaths of the commonwealth.”