BUFFALO, N.Y. — Fall officially begins Sept. 22 this year, but Mother Nature has already started to reveal the first few colors of the season.
In the ILOVENY Fall Foliage Report that came out Sept. 14, portions of Western New York had already been sighted as having partial fall color. This is a week earlier than last year for the region, and based on that, here's what to expect this fall foliage season and some of the impacts that are behind the annual event.
Two of the main factors that impact the seasonal fall colors are moisture and temperature. The good news is that this year there was nothing too extreme on either end in the past few months.
Yes, it was abnormally dry with even moderate drought conditions at one point in August, but the rainfall at in May and June was crucial as well. That being said, there's the chance that this year's peak may not last an entire week because of the general lack of rain in late summer.
As for temperature, what the region will want to avoid is an early season sub-freezing morning. That can speed up the time in which leaves change color and for how long. In the meantime, cooler mornings with temperatures in the 40s and 50s is the first sign for leaves to start their annual change.
Another is sunlight. A decreasing amount sunlight/daytime that comes this time of year is the other natural que for leaves. An important property of a leaf is chlorophyll, which relies on sunshine. That's also what gives leaves their green color. So with a later sunrise and earlier sunset in fall, a leaf will slowly loose chlorophyll and that green pigmentation, allow for the leaf's true color to show: yellow, reds and oranges. Those are the fall colors!
As far as when to expect the annual peak in fall color and where, that depends on a location's latitude and elevation. For New York State, peak fall colors typically follow this order region by region: first to change and reach peak is the Adirondacks, then Catskills, and then Southern Tier.
Then cities like Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Albany are in the middle, followed by areas along any water, like the Finger Lakes, Niagara Falls and towns along the Lake Erie and Ontario shores. Finally, the season wraps up in New York City and Long Island.
For Western New York, the peak in fall colors may come a little earlier this year than last. At the current rate, here's when to expect them. The Southern Tier could experience peak fall color in late October, sometime between Oct. 23 and 29. The greater Buffalo area will follow suit a weak later with peak fall colors just before and after Halloween. Niagara Falls, the Niagara Frontier and the Genesee Valley could experience a similar peak as Buffalo if not a few days later. All of these estimates are just a week earlier than what each region saw last year in 2021.
Again, there are a few things that could escalate this year's show such as an abnormally cold morning with sub-freezing temperatures or another prolonged dry spell in early fall. Plus, trees close to the Lake Erie and Ontario shoreline, plus the Finger Lakes, could change a week or two later.
The one thing Western New York doesn't want to have when it comes to having the best fall color season is a wind storm. An untimely wind storm in mid-late October could strip trees of their leaves early and take away the seasonal peak. That was the case back in 2006 with an unseasonal, strong snowstorm that plowed through Oct. 12 and 13.