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Warm New England Weather Won’t Ruin Fall Foliage This Year, We Hope

Yankee leaf expert Jim Salge says he's sill optimistic.

Jericho State Park photo courtesy of Jim Salge/NewEngland.com

This fall was shaping up to be a spectacular one for foliage. The pre-autumn conditions—periods of low moisture, some warm, sunny days, and believe it or not the presence of the famed gypsy moth—were just right for a bright and colorful season once the temperatures dropped. Which they did. And then, as you’ve probably noticed, they didn’t.

This has been among the warmest starts to the season in memory. In fact, the region’s upper-70s temps yesterday made it hottest place in the entire country.

So what does that stubborn muggy warm weather mean for all the reds and yellows and oranges we love so much? We sought out an answer from someone who appears to know: Jim Salge, a photographer, former meteorologist, and Yankee magazine’s resident foliage expert.

Salge previously had predicted “strong and vibrant color” this year. The extremely unseasonable warmth is not helping make this autumn pop, he says, but it’s not ruining his, or your, leaf-peeping journeys just yet.

“It certainly threw a curveball in there,” Salge says. “We’re supposed to have cool nights this time of year. If we don’t get them then, certainly, there is some concern. We can’t stay in a warm pattern forever and I would hope that we get those classic New England conditions before time is up.”

He says he may have to revise his more optimistic forecast about vibrant colors if weather doesn’t cooperate. “I haven’t lost hope,” he says. “Maybe the heat wave has kind of tempered things a bit.”

Out in the field, he says he’s seen leaves turning brown in the heat, losing their bright colors, and falling off their branches. “A week-and-a-half ago it was looking pretty bleak,” he says.

At the same time, he’s seen some breathtaking views, particularly in the Western White Mountains. Conferring with his photographer friends—New England is swarmed this time of year with pros scouting quintessential fall scenes for landscapes, ads, stock images, and other projects—he’s heard similar cautious optimism. A good, prolonged cold snap, he says could be all the “kickstart” the colors need.

“We were actually really surprised this weekend when I went to the White Mountains. A lot of the earliest areas to turn had surprisingly spectacular foliage still,” he says. “So there was an initial wave in mid-September that the heat kind of killed—browned up and fell—but there was still a lot of green. That green turned out to be some pretty stunning foliage this weekend.”

So there you have it. Who ever thought we’d be longing for the cold?


Spencer Buell Staff Writer at Boston Magazine sbuell@bostonmagazine.com