Wednesday, October 27, 2021
48.0°F

Glorious foliage might come early

| September 27, 2021 1:07 AM

We’re into the early stages of the fall season and the beauty of the Inland Northwest is being enhanced by the annual “fall foliage.”

Some of the best displays of color should be from now through the middle of October.

During this time of year, the mixture of reds, purples, oranges and especially yellows will dot the landscape. Some of the trees that are common in the Pacific Northwest include the vine maples, which provide hues of yellow, orange and red and are often found along many of the hiking trails.

The larch and aspen trees will provide yellow and gold, which also helps to make for spectacular displays.

Here in North Idaho, the peak color is normally around mid-to-late October. However, due to the record summer drought, this year’s peak will likely be earlier than usual and the trees will probably lose their leaves sooner than normal.

The website www.smokymountains.com has a good fall foliage map for the entire country. If you’re looking to see the fall colors at their peak, some recommend the Idaho section of the International Selkirk Loop, which goes through Priest River, Sandpoint and Bonners Ferry. The Pend Oreille National Scenic Byway is another good place to see the fall colors.

According to their website, the peak colors are now north of Coeur d’Alene and over the higher mountains. Much of North Idaho and eastern Washington should be near the peak of the fall colors around Oct. 11.

In the spring and summer months, green leaves serve as food factories for the tree’s growth. This food-making process takes place in the leaf with a chemical called chlorophyll. This amazing chemical absorbs energy from sunlight that is used to transform carbon dioxide and water to carbohydrates, like sugars and starch. Chlorophyll also gives the leaf its green color.

As we move through the early fall season, changes in daylight hours and cooler temperatures result in the leaves stopping their food-making process. The chlorophyll breaks down and the leaf’s green color disappears.

The other colors of red, orange, yellow pigments in the leaf now become visible, making for spectacular displays before the leaves eventually fall off the trees. Sugar maples and birch trees often show the most array of color at this time of year.

For the best fall foliage, trees usually need moisture during the summer season. Extended periods of abnormal dryness, such as the recent summer, will often lead to leaves prematurely falling off trees and changing colors sooner than normal.

Foliage is most spectacular when there are also sunny days and cool nights in the late summer and early fall. The best colors are from trees that are less stressed. Lack of water in the summer will often lead to more stress for trees, so the fall colors may not be quite as brilliant.

Although the Inland Northwest can provide some breathtaking views, the colors in the Northeast are some of the most amazing I’ve ever witnessed. If you want to take a vacation in the fall, I would certainly recommend a trip to the Northeast sometime in late September or early October. Believe me, it’s worth it.

In terms of our local weather, after a warm and pleasant weekend across the Inland Northwest, the pattern will be changing to the cooler and wetter side this week. Additional moisture will certainly be helpful as much of our region is still experiencing severe to exceptional drought conditions, based on the latest information from the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Our normal precipitation for September in Coeur d’Alene is 1.48 inches, so it’s very possible that we'll come close to that figure after the next weather system moves through the area. As of the weekend, we’d had 1.01 inches of rain this month.

At Spokane International Airport, their September rainfall will end up above normal. Their normal precipitation for this month is 0.58 inches. As of the weekend, the airport had already received 0.68 inches.

However, they're still way below normal for the season that began on Jan. 1. Only 5.71 inches of rain has fallen for the season, about half the normal of 10.60 inches to date.

Sea-surface temperatures in the south-central Pacific Ocean are continuing to cool down. Many scientists are predicting a new cooler-than-normal La Nina event for late this year or in early 2022.

As I’ve mentioned, with a La Nina pattern the chances of above-normal snowfalls across the Inland Northwest are higher. It’s not a guarantee, but Cliff and I do believe that the weather patterns in this part of the country will become more favorable for above-normal moisture levels later in the fall season.

With more moisture expected and if temperatures stay cold enough — granted, that's a big "if" — then we’ll have more snow. Stay tuned.

• • •

Contact Randy Mann at randy@longrangeweather.com