Warm, colorful fall is predicted


September 22, 1993|By Gregory P. Kane and David Michael Ettlin | Gregory P. Kane and David Michael Ettlin,Staff Writers

Last call!

If you're hoping for one more dose of summer sun, today's your last chance -- autumn arrives at 8:22 p.m.

Cue the leaves and the weather: Time to change.

How big a change, and how soon it will take place is a matter of prognostication and perhaps some guesswork depending on the information source.

For the National Weather Service, the autumn season is already well upon us -- based on its tradition of defining fall as the months of September, October and November.

"December, January and February are considered the 'cold' months," a Weather Service spokesman explained. "For us, fall consists of September through November."

The Old Farmer's 1993 Almanac sticks with 8:22 p.m. (actually, 7:22 p.m. Eastern Standard Time) for the beginning of fall -- the autumnal equinox when the sun crosses Earth's equator and day and night are equally long.

So much for the timing of fall. Now for the forecasts:

At the National Weather Service's Climate Analysis Center in Camp Springs, which handles long-range predictions, senior forecaster Jim Wagner said that the Baltimore area has a "55 percent chance of above-normal temperatures. There is a 60 percent or better chance of above-normal temperatures in the middle and south Atlantic coast region. There is no clear indication either way on whether precipitation will be above or below normal."

The Old Farmer's Almanac, which had to do its predicting last year for all of 1993, said that "early fall should be cooler than normal east of the Rockies and warmer west" while the middle and southern Atlantic states will have above-normal precipitation.

Closer to home, the Hagers-town Town and Country Almanack predicted that temperatures and rainfall will be above average in October, while temperatures will be below average and precipitation above average in November. (Could that suggest snow in November? At least in Hagers-Town?)

Average, according to National Weather Service statistics, appears to be highs in the mid-60s and lows in the mid-40s for October; in November, highs in the mid-50s and lows in the upper 30s; and in December, highs in the mid-40s and lows (stoke up the fireplace) close to freezing.

Precipitation averages a few drops over 3 inches each month. And snow, in almost any autumn, could be included.

Regardless of predictions, the leaves soon will strut their fall colors -- though how brightly, and when they reach peak glory, may depend on weather and atmospheric conditions. And, to paraphrase a well-known baseball yarn, the people will come.

At Green Ridge State Park, rangers are gearing up for show. "We may get anywhere from 5 to 10 thousand people here," said Ranger John Amann. "We put out a map with a marked route that people can follow."

The trip through the park takes about an hour and a half, Mr. Amann said, with visitors looking at different species of trees and observing the various changes in the colors of the leaves.

The weekends of Oct. 8-9 and 15-16 are usually the best times to observe the panoply of colors, said Mr. Amann, but he cautioned, "I am not a forecaster."

Mr. Wagner, at the National Weather Service, said the best place to observe fall colors is in the Appalachians. But the view may not be as good this year as in previous years because of the dry summer, he warned. For many, of course, it won't even be necessary to leave home. Fall colors will abound. And the leaves will come down.

So break out the rake. They don't call it fall for nothing.

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