FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Meteorologist Peyton Langford here back with another Weather Blog. Let’s take a trip down memory lane and compare where we are at in terms of fall color compared to some of the past years.
For starters, we’ll compare now (Oct. 15), to the past years, thanks to Explore Fall.
October 15, 2023
This is the most recent date of observed color according to Explore Fall.
As of right now, there’s very little color across our coverage area, but every now and then you’ll see a tree or two that’s changing colors. To understand why there’s little to no color right now and why there was more in the past, we need to understand the weather conditions so far through the month of October.
October 2023 Weather Conditions
For ideal fall colors to bloom you need somewhat warm, sunny days, and crisp cool nights. So far through the month of October 2023, we’ve had:
- Avg. High of 74.6°F
- Avg. Low of 49.4°F
- Summer Rainfall: +1.67″ above normal
The average temperatures for October over the last 30 years are:
- High: 70.9°F
- Low: 45.2°F
Unfortunately, I think it boils down to the fact that we’ve been 5°F too warm. This makes a difference in the timing of color change. Let’s go back to last year, 2022, for example.
There is more color than 2023 at this time, but it’s low color across the entire state, so let’s take a look at the weather conditions for that year.
October 2022 Weather Conditions
- Avg. High: 74.5°F
- Avg. Low: 44.6°F
- Summer Rainfall: -1.00″ below normal
- Moderate Color Onset: October 20
At this point, it seems the main driver was the average low temperature. In 2022, the average low temperature was much closer to the climatological average.
Most Pronounced Color
Now let’s look at a year where the color was most pronounced for this time of year, 1992.
At this time in 1992, there was already moderate color and even high color in portions of the state, so let’s get right to those weather conditions.
October 1992 Weather Conditions
- Avg. High: 73.4°F
- Avg. Low: 45.0°F
- Summer Rainfall: +3.05″ above normal
- Moderate Color Onset: Oct. 11
I looked at some other cases that had an early onset of moderate color since that was one variable I could control. I chose 2006 and 2011 because they had some pretty early onsets. I also chose 2007 since it was very similar to the current year, 2023.
- Avg. High: 68.7°F
- Avg. Low: 44.7°F
- Summer Rainfall: -0.17″ below normal
- Moderate Color Onset: Oct. 15
- Avg. High: 73.2°F
- Avg. Low: 50.0°F
- Summer Rainfall: -1.34″ below normal
- Moderate Color Onset: Oct. 24
- Avg. High: 72.0°F
- Avg. Low: 43.9°F
- Summer Rainfall: -5.73″ below normal
- Moderate Color Onset: Oct. 15
In conclusion, to have the earliest possible Moderate Color Onset, you want to have an average October high temperature of around 73°F or less and an average low temperature cooler than 44°F. One leading theory is that summer precipitation affects the timing of the leaves changing, but that isn’t the case since an extreme surplus and deficit yielded similar times in the onset of Moderate Color.
When do I think we will see Moderate Color in Northwest Arkansas? Well, I’m looking for a date when the expected temperature is within the range I just previously described. Also, let’s disregard the fact that severe weather could completely blow all the leaves off. I think we’ll see Moderate Color by October 31st. We’ll see how that holds up.
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