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Experts say dry conditions may cause ‘patchy’ fall foliage season

Nature of the state park surrounds the flowing  Pixley Falls Creek.
Chris Bolt
Pixley Falls Creek at the Pixley Falls State Park in Boonville NY.

After the first 2022 I LOVE NY Fall Foliage report for New York released on Sept. 14, Cornell University experts said recent drought in some areas may delay the onset of fall colors and fall foliage could probably be “patchy”.

Arthur DeGaetano, the director of the Northeast Regional Climate Center and professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at Cornell, said fall foliage displays will still be a part of fall in the Northeast, although dry conditions may affect how long the colors last.

The mid-summer drought is likely to be the key weather parameter affecting fall foliage. Areas in southern New England, the Hudson Valley of New York, and parts of central Vermont, have been particularly dry.” DeGaetano said. "Thus, in some areas, the reds and yellows of fall might not last as long as normal. In fact, some especially drought-stressed trees have already become to drop their leaves.

Taryn Bauerle, an associate professorof plant science at Cornell, researches how plants communicate water stress. She also said fall foliage is likely to be patchy this year.

I think the lack of rain over most of the summer will cause many trees in dryer areas to start to change their leaves early,” Bauerle said. "If the rain does continue it could just result in knocking the senescing leaves off the trees earlier. Overall, colors should be very nice this year but maybe a bit patchy.

Bauerle said early October should be the optimal time to visit New York, and higher elevation areas would have more substantial colors.