Fall foliage may survive summer drought

For the Gazette
Published: 9/17/2016 2:17:28 AM

While the drought in Hampshire County has worsened in the past week, fall foliage still stands a chance despite the dry conditions.

The U.S. Drought Monitor shows Hampshire County communities are now experiencing either severe or extreme drought. This has worsened since last week, when the entire county was in the severe category.

According to the scale used by the monitor, extreme drought is the second worst category, behind only exceptional. None of Massachusetts has reached the exceptional stage.

Bill Simpson, a spokesman for the National Weather Service in Taunton, said Friday the drought results from a lack of widespread steady rain this summer.

While there have been scattered showers, they provide limited rain for just short periods of time only in certain places, leaving much of an area not in the storm’s path without precipitation.

Simpson said that drought conditions could continue into November because chances of below-normal precipitation continuing into the fall are likely.

And summer’s drought just may change fall’s visual display.

Dry conditions, which cause moderate stress to trees, can prompt a short-lived bright red in some tree’s leaves, temporarily enhancing the colors.

Simpson said that the trees are, in fact, stressed out this season due to the drought. The lack of water could lead to trees prematurely losing their leaves, skipping the phase of changing color and instead turning brown and falling off.

“It won’t be as colorful as it could be,” said Simpson.

Felicia Andre, a forester for the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, said Friday she expects a moderate display of foliage this fall.

“I still anticipate a fall foliage season,” Andre said. “Is it going to be the most spectacular season? No, but I still anticipate it.”

She said that the drought can pose a problem because it leads to less moisture, which causes trees to get stressed and shut down for winter early.

However, Andre said that only very high levels of stress for the trees would significantly hinder the colors.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this story.


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