With atypical weather affecting the U.S. this spring and summer, local climate scientists reckon Western North Carolina will be among the best places in the nation to view colorful fall foliage.
Despite a long-lasting national heat wave, weather experts predict that well-nourished trees resulting from beneficial wet-weather patterns may position Asheville and the Blue Ridge Mountains to be among the best destinations from which to view the 2012 fall foliage.
“While much of the country continues to suffer through drought, including parts of the Northeast, …Western N.C. has enjoyed plentiful rainfall this year (but not too much!), setting us up for what should be a great fall color season,” said Pamela McCown, coordinator for the A-B Tech Institute for Climate Education.
“The ridge of high pressure that plagued much of the central U.S. … produced conditions here in Western N.C. that led to almost daily afternoon showers and thunderstorms. As a result, the trees are not stressed from lack of rain and should be ready to put on a beautiful display,” added McCown.
“In terms of temperature, Western N.C. has experienced warmer-than-average conditions this summer, along with the rest of the nation,” said Jake Crouch, climate scientist at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville.
“However, above-average rainfall has kept us out of the drought that is impacting nearly two-thirds of the contiguous United States,” added Crouch. “Conditions are favorable for healthy trees and, thus, a vibrant palette of fall colors, but the weeks ahead will be the deciding factor.”
Crouch continued: “Other areas known for fall color, such as New England and the Great Lakes, have been dry this year with drought impacting a large percentage of the region. The hot and dry summer will have placed stress on the trees and could potentially dull the color display.”
“Optimal fall colors come from a combination of conditions that must occur is the right order,” McCown noted. “The good news is that one of the key conditions is already in place because we’ve had a good growing year … The next key step will be related to the temperatures as we move into late summer and early fall. Cool, crisp temperatures at night and sunny, warm days without significant rain or early freezes in late September and early October are important for the development of vibrant color.”
Promising fall color predictions for the 2012 foliage season are good news for travelers. Color seekers should consider planning ahead to make the most of the busy autumn travel season.
To avoid the expected fall-foliage viewing rush in Western North Carolina, the Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau recommends that visitors book accommodation early. According to the Asheville tourism organization, www.exploreasheville.com lists accommodations that range from hotel suites to mountain cabins and budget-friendly B&Bs.
The Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau notes that there isn’t one specific week to see peak fall colors. The North Carolina Mountains are unique in that extreme elevation variations and more than 100 species of leaf-shedding trees offer the longest and most colorful foliage season in the U.S., according to the tourism agency. From late September into early November, travelers can easily locate sweeping views of fall colors, especially if they follow expert advice.
To help visitors locate where the autumn color is peaking from week-to-week, the Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau is working with park officials, biologists, climate experts and attractions around the region to compile weekly fall foliage reports for the North Carolina mountains at www.FallintheMountains.com. Asheville’s fall color experts will also be tweeting up-to-the-minute color updates, travel tips and travel deals at @FallColorHunter on Twitter.
Located along the Blue Ridge Parkway and just outside Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Asheville area features Blue Ridge Mountains elevations ranging from 1,500 feet in the valleys to 6,684 feet at Mount Mitchell, which is the highest peak in the U.S. east of the Mississippi River.