ASHEVILLE, N.C. (August 15, 2008) -- As summer winds down, early climate indicators and mild weather trigger predictions that fall 2008 could produce the most colorful leaf season in years in Western North Carolina.
"The environmental conditions leading into autumn are the best we've seen in years here in Western North Carolina, possibly setting the stage for the brightest leaf color show in recent history," said Dr. Gary Walker, a biology professor at Appalachian State University.
"Comparatively, the high country has had a wet summer and now temperatures are beginning to cool," said Dr. Walker. "Dry, cool weather from here on out and, ideally, an early frost in September would produce intense, widespread fall color at all elevations."
"This should be a pretty good fall for leaf color change. We are still in drought conditions in the western part of the state (which is surprisingly good for fall color), although there was enough rainfall this spring to keep the trees healthy," said Dr. Kathy Gould Mathews, assistant biology professor at Western Carolina University. "Fortunately, the summer temperatures have not been as consistently hot as last year. This should make for a nice, long progression of fall color."
"Slight drought tends to improve the vibrancy of leaf color in the fall, so we should see spots of very nice color this year," said Dr. Mathews. "A sharp cooling of temperatures in September and October would really cause the colors to burst, as this stimulates anthocyanin (red pigment) production."
With elevations that range from 1,500 feet in the valleys to 6,684 feet at Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi River, the Asheville area is a fall leaf kaleidoscope from late September through early November as the foliage color beginning at the highest elevations slowly creeps down the mountainsides. Color hunters hoping to find the perfect "peak" time for fall foliage are surprised to learn that Western North Carolina boasts one of the most extended fall foliage seasons in the nation due to varying elevations, microclimates and nearly 100 species of deciduous trees.
Weekly Fall Color Reports: To help visitors locate the perfect autumn vista, weekly fall color reports for the mountains of Western North Carolina are posted by the Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau at FallintheMountains.com and a toll-free hotline (800-257-1300). Starting the week of Sept. 22, leaf color reports will direct visitors to the best fall fireworks from week to week, using advice from Blue Ridge Parkway, U.S. Forest Service officials and a cadre of foliage experts throughout the region.
FALL STORY IDEAS
Budget-Friendly Fall: Save some green while hunting for the red, yellow and orange. Wallet-friendly itineraries, gas promotions, coupons and insider savings tips at FallintheMountains.com.
Color Hunters vs. Leaf Peepers: Intense fall adventures from extreme to mellow
Unique Aerial Views of Fall Foliage: Roof-top tours, hot air balloons, rock climbing and other birds-eye views of fall color
Fall Harvest: Seasonal farm-to-table cuisine and harvest celebrations
Eco-Friendly Autumn: Tips for greener fall adventures
Images -- High-res fall photography
Digital Video -- Adventures of the Color Hunter