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Fall color delayed by heat, Fall Outlook 2020

Our local weather impacts the changing of the leaves, our allergies, and more.
Published: Sep. 15, 2020 at 7:57 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Between football, leaves changing, and cooler temperatures, there is more than one question on East Tennesseans’ minds as we approach autumn. While it make seem like summer lingers every year, we are at a transition point going into a new season.

WHAT’S “NORMAL”?

East Tennesseans might think “we don’t do normal very well around here," but this year’s consistently above average temperatures and precipitation is really driving that one home. As of mid-September, our rainfall in Knoxville is more than 16 inches above average for the year, which puts us above the average annual rainfall already.

September averages a high of 82 degrees, and morning lows of 60 degrees, with a little more than three inches of rainfall. October drops to 71 degrees for a high and 49 degrees for a low, with about two and a half inches of rainfall. Then November cools down to 60 degrees on average, with mornings lows of 39 degrees, but an impressive 4 inches of rainfall on average. This puts the average first frost at October 23rd and the average first freeze on November 2nd.

WHAT’S THE TREND FOR FALL 2020?

You may have guessed it ... above normal. Now, this doesn’t mean we can’t have some cooler days/nights, or some dry stretches, but it does mean the overall big picture continues to run warmer than normal through November. One thing that is actually leveling off--precipitation. We’re more on track for average rainfall for the rest of fall 2020.

While we could easily have a cold snap that puts us near the average first freeze and/or frost, the overall temperature trend stick with above normal temperatures. So, if you’re hoping to keep warming in the garden on into fall, keep up with the short-range forecasts for ups and downs from week to week.

HOW DOES THIS IMPACT OUR AREA?

The changing of the leaves is a huge tourist draw to the Smoky Mountains each year. On average, the peak color change is mid-October in the mountains, but this year’s warmer temperatures trends are likely to put that on a delay. WVLT Meteorologist Heather Haley believes the highest peaks in our area will see the peak fall foliage in late October this year. This works its way down the mountains, to the foothills, Plateau, and mountains of Northeast Tennessee to Southeastern Kentucky in mid-November. The valley is surrounded by the beautiful colors until mid to late November, when peak is in the lower elevations this year. The excessive rain is good for one thing, the trees are healthy and can hang on to those leaves longer in year like this one.

When you’re raking those leaves, you may suffer from hay fever. The fall allergies are bad for some every year, but this year’s excessive rainfall helps things bloom longer and kick up more pollen longer. Ragweed is already high, and will likely stay high through October. Mold counts can make it hard to for allergy sufferers after a heavy rain on through the end of the season.

TROPICS KEEP GOING

Did you know that the tropics actually peak at the beginning of fall? September 10th is actually the average peak for the Atlantic Hurricane Season, and this year has been an active one, running through all but one name of the 21 by mid-September. October is likely to keep churning up storms, so we could have a few more named storms pushing us into the Greek Alphabet. The tropics back off by November, but they won’t just shutdown with the ocean waters running warmer than normal as well.

WVLT Chief Meteorologist Heather Haley hopes you’ll download the WVLT Weather App for a look at the local forecast, as we go into more detail on what you can expect for the next 8-days.

The colors of the leaves are likely to change later this year, due to the above average temperature trend.
The colors of the leaves are likely to change later this year, due to the above average temperature trend.(WVLT)

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