Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Helpful Tips on Predicting Fall Colors

Wahkeena Creek below Wahkeena Falls.
 Overall, many photographers in the Pacific Northwest grew frustrated with the poor showing of fall colors in 2013.  There were colors to be had, mind you.  If you could get to the larch despite the early season snow fall, they were fantastic.  However, if looking for native deciduous trees in the lower hills or valleys, it was a trying time with many leaves simply turning brown and falling to the ground while other leaves waited to turn.

This was rather easy to predict, however, with the uncharacteristically dry summer we had - one of the driest on record.

Let's start with the basics.  The most important element needed for beautiful fall colors is leaf volume.  How is this achieved?  Typically, with a moderate summer.  Too wet of a summer can promote disease and insects.  In a drought summer, as we experienced with no rain in July and very little in August, volume will be limited.

Healthy leaves stay attached to the trees longer, and present a better quality viewing surface (nice, radiant colors).  Dry conditions, pests and disease disrupt leaf surfaces.

Bridal Veil Falls in Bridal Veil State Park.
Temperature and precipitation during the fall color season will also greatly affect the colors of leaves.  Cool temperatures during the night with no freezes or frost, coupled with bright sunny days will enhance the changing of the leaf colors.  Slightly dry conditions in the last half of the growing season and during the transition into fall promote the changing color effect.

Fall rain systems and long overcast conditions diminish color appearance.  So do gusty winds that blow the leaves from the trees.  Freezing temperatures and hard frosts will kill the color formation, simply turning the leaves brown.

Here's another tip:  Keep a record of prime fall color dates for a specific area(s).  Peak color dates tend to repeat themselves.

The images appearing in this blog were taken in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area towards the end of October, 2013.  You will note mostly brown leaves on the ground with only a few gold one's serving as highlights.  Meanwhile, cottonwoods and other trees were still mostly green.

I hope this information helps you to better plan your fall color trips in the coming years.

Feel free to view other images from the Columbia River Gorge on my website.

See you on the trail!

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