Leaf-lookers, stay tuned. The quality of the fall colors in Western North Carolina’s mountains this year will depend on the temperatures recorded from September through the typical peak color weeks of October.

That’s the word from Beverly Collins, Western Carolina University’s new fall foliage forecaster. Collins, a professor in WCU’s Department of Biology, is taking over leaf prognostication duties from Kathy Mathews, a biology faculty member who had been evaluating the leaf color potential for 11 years.

Whether it will be a really good year for leaf-looking, or a so-so year, remains to be seen as weather observers monitor the climate to see if the generally warmer-than-normal conditions of 2016 continue through the fall, or if temperatures start dropping and follow the patterns of a “normal” year, Collins said.

The Asheville office of the National Centers for Environmental Information has reported that July was the 15th consecutive record warmest month globally. State climate officials say the monthly average temperatures recorded at the Asheville Regional Airport since mid-February have ranged from slightly above normal to almost seven degrees above normal.

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