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2013 New England Fall Foliage Forecast Update | Foliage Progression Stalls Due to Weather

Posted Wednesday, September 4th, 2013
2013 New England Fall Foliage Forecast Update | Foliage Progression Stalls Due to Weather
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Labor Day weekend has come and gone, marking the traditional end of summer. Kids are now headed back to school, waiting for the bus on increasingly chilly mornings. Fall favorites like football are back on television, and will be played live every Friday night in towns across the region. New England beaches are found increasingly empty, save for a few locals. And most exciting perhaps, the earliest fall foliage is less than a month away!

The summer season may be fading, but its harvest bounty is still with us. With all the rain this summer, growers and gardeners had a banner year, and farm stands and farmers markets have some of the most amazing local produce that I’ve ever seen. In the past week, I’ve purchased cherry tomatoes, onions and garlic for a tomato salad, leeks and potatoes for a rainy day soup, kale and beet greens to sauté, and early apples and late peaches to snack on!

These markets continue well into the autumn season, and fresh produce should be available until the first killing hard frost.

Farmers Markets Currently Offering the Bounty of This Years Excellent Harvest
Photo/Art by Joe Viger
Farmers Markets Currently Offering the Bounty of This Years Excellent Harvest

While the abundant rainfall this summer was great for farmers, it continues to be of concern for foliage this autumn. As we discussed in our first foliage forecast a few weeks back, the best autumn colors are brought out by a moderately wet spring and early summer (check), but a dry autumn with warm days and cool nights is necessary to really make the colors pop. This past week’s warm weather, humidity and tropical downpours, which in some areas amounted to over six inches of rainfall, were far from the ideal weather we hoped for as we headed into September.

With the trees generally showing little signs of stress, the recent rains, while not ideal, are far from a death-nail for the foliage season. We still have plenty of time for the pattern to change and bring in good color, but we do to see a fall like pattern move in, and sustain itself, soon.

Rainfall Map Map of New England Rainfall Over the Past Week


There is good news in the short-range forecast now, as the remainder of this week does look favorable for fall foliage. The only predicted showers will be accompanying consecutive cold fronts set to sweep through. Friday morning looks especially cool across the region, with temperatures even slipping to the freezing mark in the far northern reaches of New Hampshire and Maine.

Cool mornings like these can really jump start the constriction of the nutrient paths into the leaves, which can concentrate sugars, yielding brighter colors. The absence of continued cool, dry weather will yield duller colors, thus we’re hopeful that this pattern stays around for a while.

With everything that we know so far, and looking ahead at the long-range patterns, we continuing with our initial forecast of an autumn arrive at historically normal times, or slightly later.

But for those traveling to the region, how do we find out when that is? offers a few tools to help out the vacation planner.

First, our map of traditional foliage peak times is a great place to start. On it, you will be able to scan through and find the dates of your vacation, and find general regions to visit.


Peak Foliage Map Provides Many Tools to Plan an Autumn Vacation

While this map is a great starting point, there is enough variability in the geography and topography of New England such that entire regions rarely all reach peak at the same time.

A great example of this would be the Lower Champlain Valley in Vermont. While much of the rest of Northern Vermont traditionally reaches peak during the last week in September into early October, Burlington and the lake shore, with its warmer micro-climate, may not reach peak until mid October.

The White Mountains of New Hampshire also show great variability in the times that leaves reach peak over a relatively small area. The mountains form a significant block against the flow of cold air, and while the northern and western mountains can reach peak in late September, the southern and eastern mountains, near Conway, may not reach peak until around Columbus Day. The notches in between all have their own micro-climates as well, so peak foliage in Crawford Notch might not mean peak color in Pinkham Notch.

White Mountains
Photo/Art by Jim Salge
The White Mountains Provide a Significant Boundary to Seasonal Progression


Acadia National Park’s peak foliage is also often mistimed by its visitors, who plan to arrive when the majority of Maine’s interior is reaching peak. The ocean’s moderating effects often stall the foliage process, and the park rarely reaches peak before Columbus day, with a great typical target date of the 20th of October.

This variability is part of what makes leaf peeping across New England so much fun, and an activity that draws people year after year. No two seasons are the same, and even if you travel the same route year after year, you never see the same combinations of colors and scenes. Travelers who set out to find peak color will also often see early colors, bright pastels mixed with forest greens as well as the golden colors of past peak foliage all on the same trip.  And it’s all beautiful!

As the season gets into full swing, offers other opportunities to pinpoint areas where peak foliage is occurring as well. The website hosts an interactive map, where users can make real time reports, and upload pictures of the conditions that they are seeing. The map also has a travel version, a mobile app for Android and Apple devices, which can be downloaded here.  We hope you help us out with your reports as you travel through the region this fall!

At nearly any time during the autumn season, visitors to New England are almost guaranteed to see areas with fine displays of colors, but we’ll continue to watch to see how strong the season looks to come on, as well as when it is emerging compared to historical normal.

Hopefully it stays cool until next week!

Until then, enjoy the predicted awesome autumn weather!

Jim Salge


Jim Salge


As a former meteorologist at the Mount Washington Observatory, foliage reporter Jim Salge is a keen observer of the progression of the seasons in New England. He uses his knowledge of weather, geography and climate to pinpoint the best time to visit various New England locations to find the best light, atmosphere, and most importantly, color.
Updated Wednesday, September 4th, 2013
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