UNH Cooperative Extension Sheds Light on Inconsistent Foliage Season
The North Conway area and the White Mountain region are seeing plenty of good color this season, but some areas have been slow to change, while some remain a bit underwhelming. Have we even seen a peak this season with such a long, drawn-out period of color change?
MWV Valley Vibe reached out to Carroll County Extension Forester Wendy Scribner of the UNH Cooperative Extension to help understand why this season has been so different.
“This year, we had an abundance of rain as well as relatively warm temperatures extending into the fall. A lot of rainfall can increase the prevalence of leaf diseases such as anthracnose, which can bring about early browning in leaves,” Said Scribner. “While the leaves of different tree species turn different colors, the brilliant reds that we see are a result of anthocyanins in the leaves (especially in red maple). The production of this pigment is enhanced by cool weather. So milder temperatures this fall may factor in some of the less vibrant foliage this year.”
That helps to understand why color has been so inconsistent this season. Some areas of the Whites have been quite spectacular. Pockets of vivid colors can be seen throughout the region, but some entire mountain ranges are still primarily green as of mid-October. Ironically, the Green Hills Preserve area in North Conway, is a perfect example of this. The Green Hills, managed by the Nature Conservancy of New Hampshire, encompasses about 12,000 acres behind Cranmore Mountain and ranges east from Black Cap, Peaked, Middle, and Rattlesnake Mountains. This range is visible above the newly developed Conway Recreational Path and Pudding Pond, and can be seen from most areas of North Conway and Conway.
Dull colors are one thing, but many areas are still predominantly green. Why so much green, and why so late into October? Scribner believes again that it’s likely from our relatively mild temperatures this fall.
“Mild weather can delay the onset of the fall color changes. If the weather remains warmer than usual, some plants may still have enough sunlight and warmth to produce chlorophyll. The trees can still produce chlorophyll, so the green pigment is still dominant in the leaves. With good moisture from this year’s rains and a mild fall, trees can still produce energy through photosynthesis.”
According to statistics at www.weather.gov, the month of September 2023 has been the warmest since 1970, with an average of 64.6 degrees. July was the second warmest at 72.4 degrees. August was actually quite cooler than average at 66.7 degrees.
The good news is that we have lots of color change to come for the remainder of October. The not-so-good news is that we probably will not see an actual peak this season. After a very rainy summer, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised.
What we really want to know is what it means for the upcoming winter season. Will the odd weather patterns continue? Will we see a snowier-than-normal winter, as many are predicting? What does “normal” even mean these days? For those answers, we’ll have to wait and read local weather enthusiast Ed Bergeron’s Annual Snowfall Report in the winter 2023/24 edition of MWV Vibe.