Fall foliage enthusiasts beware, this year's foliage is shaping up to be dull and short-lived. The weather has been nothing short of terrible for fall foliage across pretty much the entire nation. Hot and dry weather in the East, too much rain in the Midwest, and long-term severe drought in the West are working to make sure this year will be a dud for foliage. Below is weathertrends360's 2016 Fall Foliage Forecast Map:
The summer was hot and dry in the Northeast and this was the hottest summer in 25+ years for the region and the 7th driest in 25+ years. Drought conditions expanded rapidly in the hot and dry weather going from virtually no drought in the Spring of 2016 to over 50% of the region in abnormally dry conditions by September. Summer is having a hard time letting go with a heat wave during the first full week of September along with continuing dry conditions. Above normal warmth looks set to continue through much of September, in fact, September 2016 may end up being the hottest or 2nd hottest September in 25+ years for the Northeast. Dry conditions have continued through the first half of September, which has been the driest in 7 years. The forecast calls for increased precipitation towards the latter half of September, but by then it will be too late as trees in higher elevations will already start shedding their leaves. In drought conditions the colors can still be spectacular, but the leaves tend to change in waves instead of all at once.
Like the Northeast, the Midwest was hot and this was the 5th hottest Summer in 25+ years for the region. However, what the Northeast lacked in precipitation, the Midwest made up for and this was the 5th wettest Summer in 25+ years for the region. Temperatures haven't been quite as anomalous, although still above normal, as the Northeast through the first half of September, especially in the western portions of the Midwest, however, the excessive rains have continued. Above normal warmth and wetter weather is forecast to continue through the end of September. Excessive rain tends to shorten the time to view foliage and results in duller colors, additionally, above normal temperatures are not favorable for foliage. Expect poor foliage conditions across much of the Midwest, however, western parts of the Midwest and Plains states will likely see the best foliage of the country this year as temperatures and precipitation have been more normal.
Past 90 Days Precipitation Percent of Normal (Blue/Green Areas Above Normal; Red/Yellow Areas Below Normal)
Long-term, extreme drought continues to be the bane of fall foliage lovers' existence. There was some improvement in drought conditions in northern California thanks to wetter weather earlier in the year, but it wasn't enough to eradicate the drought. Foliage may be a bit better than recent years in northern California because of the wetter weather received earlier this year, but we still don't expect a block-buster display.
The Southeast suffers from some of the same issues as the Northeast with a hot summer and dry conditions. However, there is a bit more variability across the region with wetter weather closer to the Gulf and Southeast Coasts, thanks to ample tropical moisture and Hurricane Hermine earlier in September. Farther inland, drought has expanded across the northern portions of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, western South and North Carolina, and eastern Tennessee. Go a little farther west into Arkansas and there has been too much rain. So, heat combined with too little or too much rain, depending on your location, is expected to bring poor foliage to the region. Additionally, an active hurricane season in the Atlantic this year could cut the foliage season short should a tropical system make landfall with heavy rain and strong winds. Below is a map of all of the tracks of named tropical systems so far this Atlantic Hurricane Season.