Record heat and little rain could impact fall colors across north Georgia

ATLANTA — Fall means leaf watching season is about to get underway in north Georgia.

Severe Weather Team 2 Meteorologist Brian Monahan has learned that the record heat and drought could have a big impact on how pretty those colors are this year.

Every fall, north Georgia’s trees put on a vibrant show. Summer's dark greens change to brilliant reds, oranges and yellows. Thousands make the yearly trek into the mountains for a front row seat.

"Fall in the mountains is always busy," said Kim Hatcher with Georgia State Parks.

[PHOTOS: Check out these gorgeous fall photos, all submitted by our viewers!]

Hatcher told Monahan that she expects the mountains to be packed with leaf watchers again. But this year's show will likely be delayed and shorter than a typical year.


"The hot, dry summer certainly isn't doing us any favors for the leaf watching," Hatcher said.

It's around this time each year trees stop producing chemicals that color leaves green as the days get shorter and temperatures get cooler.

Leaves fade to orange and yellow while the cooler temperatures kick on a chemical that turns some leaves red.

[READ: If your trees look like it's fall already -- you may have a problem]

But this year's extreme heat and drought stressed most trees.

“It's been so hot and so dry, so a lot of the leaves, especially the poplar, are already starting to fall a little early, some of them are turning brown, they're a little more muted," Hatcher said.

So, the best fall color, which usually happens in late October and early November, “this year's probably going to go more into November," Hatcher said.

[READ: 7 under-the-radar OTP Atlanta spots for leaf peeping]

Hatcher told Monahan there's still time for a great leaf season if we get much cooler weather in the next several days.

“If we can get some really cold nights that are not freezing, if we can get a little bit more rain, we could end up having a really vibrant fall after all," Hatcher said.

She told Monahan there are many great spots to catch the fall leaves once they start changing.

“Cloudland Canyon, Tallulah Gorge, Fort Mountain -- those are some really good choices,” Hatcher said.

Georgia State Parks has a Leaf Watch Travel Planner that includes a list of the 10 best parks for fall color.