October 22, 2009 in Washington Voices

Expect chills on Halloween as winter nears

Randy Mann
 

As the fall continues to advance, the beauty of the Inland Northwest is enhanced by the tremendous autumn foliage. We will likely see the greatest display of color across the region during the next few weeks.

During this time of year, the mixture of reds, purples, oranges and especially yellows will dot the landscape. In the spring and summer, the green leaves actually serve as food factories for the tree’s growth. This food-making process takes place in the leaf which contains a chemical called chlorophyll. This amazing chemical absorbs energy from sunlight that used to transform carbon dioxide and water to carbohydrates, like sugars and starch. Chlorophyll also gives the leaf its green color.

As we move into the fall, fewer hours of daylight and cooler temperature stop the leaves’ food-making process. The chlorophyll breaks down and the leaf’s green color disappears. The other colors of red, orange and yellow pigments in the leaf now become visible making for spectacular displays before the leaves eventually fall off the trees. Sugar maples and birch trees often show the most array of color at this time of year.

Although the Inland Northwest can provide some breathtaking views, the colors in the Northeast are some of the most amazing I’ve ever witnessed. My wife Sally and I lived in Vermont for eight years and we were lucky enough to see the brilliant display of colors of the hillsides every fall as most of the trees there are sugar maples and birch. If one wanted to take a vacation in the fall, I would certainly recommend a trip to Vermont in late September or early October. Believe me, it’s worth it.

As far as our near-term weather is concerned, more cool and showery weather is expected next week. Don’t be surprised to see some snow in the higher elevations. We may see a break from the wet weather for Halloween, but it will be chilly. Another round of showery weather should arrive in early November.

If the warmer-than-normal sea-surface temperature event in the south-central Pacific Ocean, El Nino, doesn’t weaken over the next several months, conditions should start turning drier and milder than normal in December and January. Snowfall totals for this winter should be below normal levels.

Contact Randy Mann at randy@longrangeweather.com.

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