According to long-range forecasts, temperatures are expected to remain well above average across the eastern half of the country into at least the fourth week of October. SOURCE: NOAA / Climate Prediction Center

Elwell: Mild fall may be sign of La Niña

Fall is well underway, and you’ve probably noticed a lot of leaves falling.

However, you may have noticed there is not a lot of vivid color, at least not yet. A nearly two-week period without any rainfall did not help the situation much. Many trees became stressed and started dropping their leaves before much color could be achieved.

However, the rainfall the last few days may have come at a really good time. There are still a lot of leaves on the trees, and the peak color is not expected for at least another week.

The rain should help the trees rebound from near-drought conditions and, hopefully, begin to produce more color as we get closer to peak.

The biggest problem for getting some great fall color is our unseasonably mild temperatures. Even with the recent rain — with two cold fronts and the remnants of Hurricane Nate moving by — our temperatures never really dropped off. To get more color, we need overnight lows to dip into the upper 30s or 40s, but not below freezing.

The long-range forecast is not very promising for that. The latest outlook calls for temperatures to stay well above normal through the rest of October. That would take us well past normal peak time for fall color without optimal temperatures for trees to produce the best color.

The closer we get to November, the more likely we are to experience storm systems that produce gustier winds. These windy systems have a habit of bringing down leaves. It is quite possible the leaves will come down before we get much color this year.

The biggest question will be if the milder than normal temperatures so far this fall will last into the winter. We are still putting together our winter outlook and plan to release it at the end of this month.

One of the main factors we will look for is to see of La Niña will take hold this winter. La Niña refers to the periodic cooling of ocean surface temperatures in the central and east-central equatorial Pacific.

Typically, La Niña events occur every 3 to 5 years or so. Our current weather pattern does match up with a La Nina pattern, which usually exhibits a mild fall.

If we are indeed entering a La Niña pattern, then we can expect a wet winter. It is still too early to tell if La Nina will continue to develop.

Either way, it doesn’t look like we will be needing the heavy winter coats or ice scrapers anytime soon. Enjoy it while it lasts!

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