How recent warm temperatures are impacting fall colors in North Carolina

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – We finally have some cooler temperatures in the extended forecast, and you may be thinking about an extended trip out west to enjoy the changing leaves. 

A quick science refresher on leaves and seasons.

As summer comes to an end, there is less daylight for us to enjoy. For leaves, the shorter days are a sign to start preparing for winter and stop producing chlorophyll. 

As the leaves stop making chlorophyll, the green pigment fades, and we can start to enjoy the fabulous red, orange and yellow colors of fall. 

Dr. Robert Bardon with North Carolina State University’s College of Natural Resources knows the weather we see has a direct impact on what kind of colors you see and when. 

“If we have weather like sunny days and cool nights in the fall, that often helps promote the production of certain pigments that stand out in fall colors.”

The weather has been warm as of late, and temperatures have been especially mild at night. These warmer temperatures are causing the fall colors to take a bit longer to hit their peak. 

Right now, the best place to find vibrant colors is at the highest elevations. Colors are starting to pop at elevations above 5,000 feet.

The highest elevations see color first, then the colors cascade down in elevation as the weeks continue. 

As we head into the next week or two, elevations around 3,000 to 4,000 feet will start to see peak colors. The end of October will be perfect for elevations around 2,000 to 3,000 feet. 

Lower elevations, like us here in central North Carolina, are still showing a lot of green, but be on the lookout for changes daily. 

There is a wide range of elevations in our state, which means you have plenty of time to enjoy some fall colors.

North Carolina also has a vast array of trees! Bardon says that also increases your chances of seeing those beautiful fall colors. 

“With the diversity of trees that we have and the variation that we see in the weather patterns across our state we often have fall colors, somewhere you’ll find fall colors that are vibrant and very nice to look at.”

So grab your favorite fall drink (pumpkin spice for me!) and find some colors to fall for. 

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