CULLOWHEE, N.C. - Abundant August rains shouldn't have an impact on fall leaves showing their colors in western North Carolina, according to a university professor.
Appalachian State University professor Howard Neufeld said it's an old wives' tale that if you get a lot of rainfall in the summer it dilutes the fall color, the Asheville Citizen Times reports. Neufeld said what matters is sunshine and temperatures in September, which he calls a crucial month.
Neufeld said sunny days and cool nights are the best conditions for fall colors. He said in Boone, dogwoods have already started changing to a dark burgundy red color.
The professor cites long-range forecasts from the National Weather Service which call for an equal chance for normal temperatures and a 33 percent chance of above-normal precipitation.
But just how brilliant the leaves will be is another question, said Beverly Collins, a biology professor and fall foliage forecaster at Western Carolina University.
The temperatures this summer have been warmer than usual: about 4.2 degrees above average in June, 1.3 degrees above normal in July, and just less than 1 degree above normal in August, said Scott Krentz, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Greer, South Carolina.
Collins said if the warm, rainy summer continues into September, fall colors are likely to be moderately muted this year.
Continued warmth might mean a delay in the start of leaves turning color, Collins said, or at least a delay in peak colors.
"Assuming that it stays warm, we might not get that cold nighttime temperature that we usually get until a few days later in October," Collins said. "I think the colors will be normal to somewhat muted, because the plants are growing faster. They're not accumulating more of these compounds, these pigments, that make them bright. It's not true that wet weather washes out the color, it's just that they're growing fast."
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