Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Rains: Can fall be saved?

Drought damage done, but rains may be boon to foliage show.

Rains: Can fall be saved?

Rain totals in Philadelphia for the last six days now are pushing 6 inches, with more elsewhere in the region. Therein resides a certain symmetry. Before the rains started late last week, the accumulated rainfall deficit since April 1 was right around 6 inches. The effects of the dryness and the summer's record heat were evident on the browning trees and on all the lawns covered with premature, brittle leaf-fall. Among the stressed-out species were sugar maples, tulip poplars, and bald cypresses, according to William Elmendorf, a forestry specialist at Penn State. Some of the damage may be irreversible in terms of taking leaves out of play for the annual fall-color extavaganza. "In some cases, the die may already be cast," said Paul Meyer, executive director of Penn's Morris Arboretum, in Chestnut Hill. But it won't be a complete wash-out. The late-breaking rains should help apply the brakes on the leaf-fall. "It will slow it down some," he said. Elmendorf believes that the trees will get a jolt from all the fresh rains, but that they may not reap that harvest until the spring. In any event, Meyer assures, fall will be fall, and do expect plenty of color. Foliage connoisseurs can look to 1995 for encouragement. That year, heavy October rains helped break a serious drought, and leaves were hanging tough deep into November. That is not to say it will happen again. Like love and the atmosphere, the onset, duration and vibrancy of fall colors are subject to maddening variables. Said Meyer, "I don't think anyone really knows what's going to happen." But it almost certainly will become more colorful around here by the end of the month.

Tony Wood Inquirer Weather Columnist
About this blog

Everyone talks about the weather, and here we write about it.

When we’re around and conditions warrant, we’ll keep you updated about what’s coming, but we will do our best always to discuss weather and climate developments in context and remind you that nothing in the atmosphere happens in a vacuum.

Tony Wood has been writing about the atmosphere for The Inquirer for 26 years.

Reach Tony at twood@phillynews.com.

Tony Wood Inquirer Weather Columnist
Also on Philly.com
Stay Connected