Fall foliage may fail to impress this year

SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — Autumn officially begins this week, but one of the more colorful activities associated with the season may not live up to annual expectations.

Most of the leaves at this point remain green, but some trees around Southern New England are starting to sport tinges of color.

“The green is starting to peel back a little bit,” said the University of Rhode Island’s Keith Killingbeck.

Leaf peepers will likely see more brown instead of red, orange, or yellow this fall because a few things have been working against those vibrant colors.

The gypsy moth infestation and subsequent defoliation in June will have a major impact. Killingbeck tracks certain trees in the area and said some were hit badly by the caterpillars.

“The canopy itself is not barren, but half or less what it normally would be,” he explained.

In addition, parts of the area have rainfall deficits of 5 to 10 inches since the spring.

“The deficit of rainfall that we’ve had during the growing season, that, especially in combination with the insect activity, stresses trees,” said Killingbeck.

Temperature is also another big issue. Warm weather will decrease the color intensity, as trees need cooler weather and sunshine to help break down the chlorophyl, which gives leaves their green color.

“I would be absolutely amazed if there wasn’t some color,” Killingbeck added. “It might not be as colorful a fall as we often have.”

If you’re looking to check out some foliage up north, your best bet is in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont and the Presidential Range of New Hampshire.

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