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Local experts optimistic about this year's foliage

Despite humidity and rain, foliage may brighten soon

ROANOKE, Va. – Despite rounds of heavy rain and record humidity in recent months, local experts like Dr. John Seiler and Chris Thomsen are optimistic about foliage in the coming weeks. 

Dr. Seiler is a Professor of Forest Biology at Virginia Tech, and he says, "We need some clear, sunny days. That's what's required for red coloration."

The red color we often see in the fall acts almost like sunscreen, to protect the leaf from getting damaged by the sun's rays. 

"The loss of daylight is what makes chlorophyll break down," says Seiler. Once chlorophyll breaks down, it reveals pigments in the leaves that have always been there like yellow.

Now, you might think with all the greenery around that we're running behind schedule. Chris Thomsen, a Regional Forester with the Virginia Department of Forestry, says that's actually not the case. 

"It used to be that I could tell folks the third week of October and feel good about it. Nowadays, it's more like early November."

This is thanks, partly, to the fact that nighttime temperatures have warmed in the fall since 1970. Now we just have to hope that we don't cool down too much too quickly in the next one-to-two weeks. 

Both Seiler and Thomsen have recommended starting in the higher elevations sooner, and then looking for the change in the Roanoke Valley and Piedmont towards November. 

Thomsen tells 10 News that the rainfall we've gotten may actually help us toward a brighter next few weeks.

"Traditionally, rainfall increases the brightness of colors. Reds should be redder, and if everything comes together - it should be a very pretty fall."


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