The Fall Color Guy’s Foliage Forecast

Meteorologist James Scott caught up with App State's Dr. Howard Neufeld, also known as the "Fall Color Guy," for his forecast on peak foliage season.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Fall is here! You can feel it in the air. You can smell the bonfires and sweet scents of maple on a cool-tempered evening. You can taste the apple cider and pumpkin pie already. There’s an unspoken sense of crisp camaraderie that comes with shorter days and longer nights.

But enough about feelings.

Soon, you’ll be able to see fall in action as beautiful yellows, oranges, and reds rush into the Carolinas. I caught up with app state’s own Dr. Howard Neufeld, also known as the ‘Fall Color Guy,’ for his forecast on the upcoming colors. Dr. Neufeld says that he thinks gorgeous fall color will jump out over the next couple of weeks in the High Country.

That’s music to my ears! But why is Dr. Neufeld so confident? According to the man himself, cooler-than-average temperatures in September and early October to go along with no drought and plentiful sunshine make a perfect combination for splendid fall colors.

That’s right, the weather is key to seeing deep, vibrant reds that we all know and love every season. But, much like a kid on Halloween, they need sugars! Unlike those sugar-toothed younglings, however, they get it from photosynthesis.  “If you have sunny, cool days, they can do a lot of photosynthesis and make a lot of the red pigment, which is called anthocyanins,” Dr. Neufeld says. It’s the same pigment that makes roses and strawberries red.

There may not be much in terms of color in charlotte right now, but as Dr. Neufeld explains, it’s a trickle-down effect. “The colors start at the top first, then about every 10 days, they move 1,000 feet down,” according to the Fall Color Guy. “You can have a fall color season that starts right now and goes all the way until Thanksgiving – almost two months long.” That’s the longest peak season among anywhere in the eastern United States!

Dr. Neufeld recommends that you come during weekdays when the roads are less crowded and bring extra layers in case of a classic Blue Ridge chill. He also says to not be afraid of going off the beaten path to find the perfect colors.

He even has some advice for those searching for the perfect Instagram picture. “The best time to take pictures is early in the morning, because with the sun at a low angle, you get better color saturation,” says Neufeld, “A lot of the overlooks on the parkways face east. If you have the sun in the east part of the sky, it’s shining on the forest and you can get a good picture of it.”