With fall around the corner conditions favor vibrant foliage colors


NASHVILLE, Tenn., (WKRN) — Changing leaves are just around the corner, and many Middle Tennesseans are looking forward to leaf-peeping this year.

When it comes to fall foliage, Professor of Biology at Appalachian State Dr. Howard Neufeld – also known as the ‘Fall Color Guy’- is optimistic about how this year’s spectacle will shape up. “The one thing about this year is that we haven’t had any drought, so the trees are in good shape.”

He noted there is more to impressive fall colors than just getting rainfall. The weather for the rest of September will have a big impact on this year’s colors. 

According to Dr. Neufeld, “If it’s cool and sunny, and particularly if it has cool nights, then that brings out the best color.”

Wet, warm, and cloudy conditions can dull the vibrant red colors. These conditions also impact when the peak happens. If conditions are too warm and wet, then peak color can be delayed by anywhere from one week to ten days. It also spreads the colors out, so instead of a big burst of color, it would be more of a gradual change.

The further east you go, the sooner the colors peak. The highest elevation in the Smokies and along the Blue Ridge Parkway peak in early October. Eastern Tennessee, including The Plateau, typically sees peak color between October 19th and October 26th. If you live along the Highland Rim or a little further west, peak color is typically around Halloween or during the first week of November. 

Dr. Neufeld told us, “For about every 1,000 feet you drop in elevation, it’s about a week or 10 days later.” 

If you want to avoid crowds and see peak color saturation, leaf-peeping early in the morning is your best bet. It’s also a safe activity to do during the pandemic.

“I think it’s a perfect activity for people to get out and do because you can be spread out and you have less chance of passing on the virus to other people. And if they take the proper precautions, then you can have a pretty safe outing up here in the mountains.”

For frequent updates, you can head to the Fall Color Guy Facebook page or to the Fall Color Report website.

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