App State professor: August rain shouldn't fade fall leaves

App State professor: August rain shouldn't fade fall leaves
Golden leaves add a touch of autumn brilliance to the Linville River in Linville. According to Dr. Howie Neufeld, Appalachian State University biology professor and noted 'Fall Color Guy,' this is the peak week for the Blowing Rock-to-Grandfather Mountain section of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Forests below 3,000 feet are still predominantly green, Neufeld said, adding that they will likely turn in the next two weeks. As it stands, the peak color is from about approximately 5,000 feet or so down to about 3,000 feet. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation

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.

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Although leaves have peaked in the High Country, autumn remains colorful and vibrant, as demonstrated in this photo from Elk River Falls, located near the North Carolina-Tennessee border. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation
Although leaves have peaked in the High Country, autumn remains colorful and vibrant, as demonstrated in this photo from Elk River Falls, located near the North Carolina-Tennessee border. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation

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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