Foliage forecast: What’s helping, hurting our chances of seeing bright colors this autumn

Meteorologist Chris Michaels breaks down why some areas may see bright colors and why others may not

ROANOKE, Va. – It’s that time of year again! Fall has officially arrived. It feels like it recently too. Now if only it could look like it.

It will take some time, as it usually does. It all boils down to that big word we learned in elementary school - photosynthesis.

As daylight decreases, nutrients for the leaves do as well. The chlorophyll that gives leaves their green color gets choked off, exposing different shades of yellow, orange, red, brown, or even purple.

On average, the fall colors peak in southwest Virginia in mid-to-late October.

Average date of peak fall foliage in southwest and central Virginia

As of September 25, the report from ExploreFall shows patchy changes in areas near and north of the Roanoke Valley and Lynchburg area.

Foliage report from ExploreFall as of 9/25/2023

However, that comes with a price. These areas are in a drought. More specifically, parts of the southern Shenandoah are under a ‘severe’ drought. This is leading to stress on the leaves, causing them to change prematurely and drop early too.

How severe drought is impacting leaf change in parts of the area

What we hope for is that nice combination of warm, sunny days, clear and cool nights, and some rainfall.

We’ve had plenty of rain in the New River Valley in 2023, so the hope is that fall colors will be just as pretty as usual in this part of the region.

Over the next few weeks, we want to see and share your pictures of the fall foliage. You can send them through Pin It for a chance to be featured.

About the Author:

Meteorologist Chris Michaels is an American Meteorological Society (AMS) Certified Broadcaster, forecasting weather conditions in southwest Virginia on WSLS 10 News from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. weekdays on Virginia Today.