ASHEVILLE, N.C., Sept. 8, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Autumn in overtime: One of the longest fall color seasons in the world will get even longer this year. According to biologists and climate scientists, Asheville, North Carolina, and the Blue Ridge Mountains could experience an extended fall leaf season, giving travelers fall vacation opportunities from late September through early November. The longer season is a bonus on what is already an unusually long leaf season due to extreme elevations and unmatched biodiversity.
- Tip: Fall travel deals, weekly color updates and live foliage reports at http://www.FallintheMountains.com.
- Fall travel inspiration: Top 10 Fall Adventures and Nine New Autumn Travel Packages
FALL FORECAST: SUMMER WEATHER MAY EXTEND LEAF SEASON
According to NOAA Climate Scientist Jake Crouch, the summer of 2016 was the hottest on record for Asheville, with an average temperature of 75.7 degrees Fahrenheit. Precipitation trends included a mixture of wet and dry conditions, bringing the seasonal rainfall total just above normal at 13.57 inches.
Dr. Beverly Collins, a biology professor and fall foliage forecaster at Western Carolina University, states that the region's summer weather did not reach the extreme conditions that could pose a threat to fall leaf colors. Although vibrancy may vary from mountainside to mountainside due to warmer-than-normal weather, her prediction is that the disparity in precipitation amounts from the beginning to end of the summer could be favorable for a longer lasting leaf-change this year.
Some trees may respond to drought conditions by slowing photosynthesis and making way for red, orange and yellow pigments earlier than normal, while other species that aren't as drought sensitive may wait a little longer to begin to turn. "These nuances in the different species combined with elevational ranges create a variation in timing and color, making for a prolonged season," added Collins.
FALL COLOR HUB FOR NATIONAL PARKS CENTENNIAL ADVENTURES
Situated just a short drive from the Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Asheville is a convenient middle-elevation hub for quick access to scenic fall drives and a range of colorful national park adventures. Click here for national parks centennial adventures around Asheville.
"The Blue Ridge Mountains are one of the best places in the world to experience fall color," said Dr. Howard S. Neufeld, professor of biology and 'fall color guy' at Appalachian State University. "Because of the range of elevations, we start to see color at the highest elevations like Grandfather Mountain in late September, and then that color cascades downslope all the way to lower locales like Chimney Rock in early November. A place like New England can't boast this long of a season."
Elevation extremes across the region produce unparalleled plant diversity and, thus, a broad spectrum of leaf color. The area is home to more than 100 species of leaf-shedding trees – from maple, cherry and beech on the higher slopes to oak and hickory on the mid-slopes and poplars lower down. Click here to see a 3-D flyover illustrating how fall cascades over the region.
WHAT DO WE NEED FOR A POP OF FALL COLOR?
All of the experts agree that the weather in September and October will most greatly affect the vibrancy of the fall color season. Sunny days and crisp, cool nights are what causes chlorophyll in leaves to degrade and red, orange or yellow pigments to emerge. While the season's weather is yet to be determined, the area is moving into autumn with favorable conditions. "We are in good shape for a good fall season," said Neufeld. "I haven't identified any major diseases or pests that are threatening the leaves this year."
Crouch added that higher elevations along the Blue Ridge Parkway, where cooler temperatures will be observed, might be the best bet for spotting the most vibrant colors this year.
NEW IN 2016: FALL COLOR REPORTS VIA FACEBOOK LIVE
Receive up-to-date looks at the best fall color in the region through Facebook Live Color Reports on www.Facebook.com/Asheville. Weekly color reports will gather input from leaf experts, parks and attractions around the region to offer travelers tips, insights and excursion ideas where the fall colors are best and brightest. Autumn travel deals, fall events and updates on the progress of the foliage season can also be found at FallintheMountains.com.
Surrounded by the highest peaks in the East and named one of the "Best Cities in the U.S." in 2016 by Travel + Leisure magazine, Asheville is fall basecamp for national park centennial adventures with four direct access points to the Blue Ridge Parkway and five entry points to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park within 70 miles of downtown. Steeped in outdoor adventure and cultural legacies – including America's Largest Home, Biltmore – the area's sweeping views, natural superlatives and historic significance regularly place it among the nation's top 10 fall travel destinations.
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SOURCE Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau