The cool weather has led some trees to get an early start on their annual color conversion.

Up and down the East Coast, some maple trees are already changing to showy shades of red and gold. But there are also other factors that will keep the forest foliage on schedule, according to Howie Neufeld, a professor of biology at Appalachian State University. He produces a series of regular reports about fall colors in the North Carolina Mountains.

Neufeld says we've avoided the drought conditions of some recent summers, and despite the cool temperatures, sunlight has been abundant this year. He adds that a touch of cool weather can actually boost the amount of color, so he's optimistic about seeing a good array. Neufeld says if you're planning on getting a glimpse of nature's annual show,  there's also a bit of science to getting the best results.

"If you go mid-day when the sun is up in the sky, it tends to wash out the colors. So you get better color-viewing when the sun is at a low angle, so either later in the day or early in the day," he says.

The time for peak colors in the Blue Ridge is typically in mid-October, and its arrival draws huge crowds to the mountains. Neufeld points out that once the leaves start turning at the highest elevations, the changes move to lower elevations at a rate of about 1,000 feet per week. That means the peak colors for the Piedmont will typically not occur until November.

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