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NC Fall Color Forecast 2016

by Shawn Cox, Arborist, City of Statesville, NC

This time of year every arborist is always confronted with the same questions over and over.  How are the fall colors going to be and when will be the peak color?  Is it going to be a hard winter?

To answer these questions lets first look the conditions that create the fireworks of fall.  The most important determining factor is the day time and night time temperature.  Warm sunny days followed by cool nights with temperatures below 45 degrees but above freezing are needed to set the show in motion.  Brilliance of color is more determined by moisture.  A combination of dryer days with the correct temperatures sets the stage for the best fall colors.  So given this information and the current weather pattern and conditions we should be in for some spectacular fall color!  Remember though the onset of freezing temperatures, wind and rain can shorten the show. 

So when will be the peak time to see the best color?  There again looking at current conditions and patterns we are finally cooling off a little, the mountains should be seeing peak conditions around the middle of October.  The foothills will follow a couple weeks later towards the end of the month and the Piedmont will be around the last week of October through the first week of November.   

Will it be a hard winter?  I love to follow the folklore that predicts the coming winter.  From my observations of nature everything is pointing to get some extra bread, milk and firewood put back.  It is going to be a hard cold winter. 

August had a lot of foggy mornings.  The foggy mornings of August indicate a snow for each one and there were several. 

The bees have nested more in the ground this year.  They do this when they want to use the ground temperature to insulate the hive.  On the approach of a mild winter they nest more in the trees. 

Speaking of trees the best predictor I use to determine the harshness of winter is the amount of  fruit production on the trees.  Mother Nature will usually produce extra with the approach of a hard winter for wildlife to feed on.  The acorn crop and persimmon crop this year is at peak production.

One of the most watched forecasters is the Wooly Worm.  I haven’t been able to run one down yet to ask, but I am sure when he shows up he will agree with me and say.  “Bundle up and stay warm.  Winter is coming!”