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Chris’ Weather Corner - “Fall Foliage Likely to Peak Soon in Upstate NY”

By Chris Gilberti | October 9, 2023

New York State fall foliage tracker for the week of Oct. 4-10, 2023

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The fall season is upon us in New York as temperatures start to cool off and the trees turn to shades of yellow, orange, and red. Fall officially began on Sept. 22, and since then we have seen quite a shift in the weather. After a large storm system pushed across the country this past weekend, temperatures dropped to the 50s and 60s (F). These cooler temperatures and the drier conditions expected next week should allow fall foliage across Upstate New York to accelerate towards peak color.

After a hot start to September, things finally started to cool off by the end of the month. This gave the northeast a taste of early fall weather with high temperatures in the 60s to low 70s before the start of October. The first week of October, however, brought back the heat with temperatures skyrocketing back to mid-80s. A large storm system pushed across the country towards the end of last week and brought an abrupt end to these summer-like temperatures. The storm ushered in high temperatures in the 50s and low 60s, with overnight lows dropping into the 40s. With cooler temperatures and drier weather, any green left on trees will likely begin to turn quickly to fall colors.

Temperatures have been fluctuating quite a bit the last few weeks across the northeast United States, but it is possible that the well-above-average temperatures felt last week will be the last taste of summer. These abrupt changes in temperatures are common in the transition seasons (fall and spring) after large storm systems bring in new air masses. Stronger storms will generally lead to larger changes in temperatures, partly because the strength of a storm is in part determined by the difference in temperature on either side of it.

In transition seasons, there is often very cold air to the north battling with much warmer air to the south. Ahead of these strong storms, the warm air to the south is brought further north, which is part of how temperatures got so warm last week. Then, after the storm passes, bringing heavy rain and strong winds as occurred on Saturday, cold air plunges to the south, quickly dropping temperatures behind the storm's cold front.

With temperatures now around 30 degrees cooler than last week, the feel of fall is truly in the air, and many are awaiting the peak of fall foliage. There are however a few different factors that determine when the best colors will appear, and just how vibrant they will be. Adequate rain during the summer months helps as it keeps the trees in good health leading into the fall. If the trees become stressed by drought, they may change color prematurely and be more dull. If there is one positive impact of the seemingly never-ending rain this past summer, it is that it should provide for much more vibrant colors on the trees.

Weather in the fall season itself is also important for foliage color. The bright red colors in autumn leaves are enhanced by sunlight and cold weather, so sunny days and cool nights are ideal for turning the trees bright oranges and reds. After the passing of the strong storm this past weekend, we should stay dry and mostly sunny for the remainder of the week.

Additionally, temperatures will be seasonally cool reaching the 50s to low 60s during the day, and low 40s overnight. This type of weather is just about ideal for fall foliage to appear, so with the colors starting just a few weeks ago, it should accelerate quickly to near peak later this week into next.


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