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Fall colors expected to be later, duller than usual

October 3, 2018

The lack of crimson Virginia creeper vines setting off the autumn parade of colors should have been a tip-off: Fall is late with less-spectacular colors expected, according to the latest forecast.

Peak colors of the state’s deciduous trees and shrubs will run seven to 10 days late this year, according to Marc Abrams, who has been forecasting the fall foliage turn for 32 years. He is a professor of forest ecology and physiology and the Steimer Professor of Agricultural Sciences at Penn State University.

Blame the heavy rainfall and the continuing balmy weather, which is expected to stay in the region for at least another 10 days, according to Abrams and the National Weather Service.

“When we have cool and dry weather, it breaks down the green pigment, and the leaves die for the season,” said Abrams.

That’s what causes the colorful leaf displays. But not this year, at least so far.

“The warm weather and wet weather prolongs the growing season, and the leaves stay green longer,” he said.

“This September was a ‘bugger’ as it wasn’t just above normal in terms of precipitation and temperature, it was well above normal,” said Lee Hendricks, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Moon Township.

The region got soaked with 8.5 inches of rain this month, more than double the normal precipitation rate historically.

Then there is the seemingly endless balmy weather: This month, the region’s average temperature rose six degrees above normal. That is “much above normal as far as temperatures go,” Hendricks said.

Additionally, the wet summer and recent rains have caused mold problems with trees, harming the leaves and causing “rather unspectacular coloration and death of those leaves,” Abrams added.

Not to discourage residents from chasing the fall leave pageantry, Abrams said there will eventually be good leaf color out there, but it will be later and residents will have to hunt for those colorful landscapes.

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