Maine’s much-anticipated fall foliage season, as well as the peak apple harvest, are at least a week behind schedule because cool temperatures are just starting to arrive.

But the current spell of sunny, dry and milder weather appears likely to continue well into next week, offering Mainers and visitors alike a smooth transition into fall, which officially began at 4:21 a.m. Wednesday.

“It’s been a little drier than normal but certainly has been a beautiful couple of weeks,” said Margaret Curtis, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray.

By this point in September, much of northern Maine is usually awash in red, orange and yellow, while trees in central and southern areas begin their steady march toward the peak color that leaf-peepers love. But as of Wednesday, far northern Maine was reporting “low” color change while the rest of the state fell in the “very low” or minimal category, according to the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s fall foliage website.

Gale Ross, coordinator of the department’s foliage-tracking program, said Thursday that the state appears to be about a week behind the typical timetable because of the recent spate of warm temperatures. That means northern Maine likely will not reach peak colors until early October, while southern and coastal areas could see “an abundance of color” into late October, Ross said.

“There is no way of getting around it: Mother Nature will perform its magic and will start preparing trees for winter,” Ross said. “If conditions remain, we could be going toward peak during that third week into the last week of October.”

As for the vibrancy of the color display, the dry conditions in August and September, combined with the warmer temperatures, mean this year’s foliage season is not likely to be as eye-popping as last year’s. But that is harder to predict.

Maine’s apple orchards are expected to produce a bumper crop this year, however, even if the harvest is also coming a bit later than normal.

Apple trees tend to have alternately higher-yield and lower-yield years, and most of the state’s trees are on the more bountiful side this season, said Renae Moran, a tree fruit specialist with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. Although some orchards are already harvesting crops that ripen earlier, and many pick-your-own farms are up and running, Moran said she expects the large-scale commercial harvest to be delayed by a week or two.

“They’re getting sweeter now that we have cooler temperatures . . . and their color has suddenly become pretty good,” Moran said.

The National Weather Service is forecasting a week’s worth of sunny or mostly sunny conditions through next Thursday for the Portland area, with daytime highs in the 60s to 70s and temperatures dipping into the mid-40s and 50s at night.

The pleasant September weather comes on the heels of a mild summer season in Maine that didn’t set many records.

The average temperature for Portland during the summer season – defined as June 1 to Aug. 31 by the weather service – was 66.9 degrees, exactly the same as the average during the previous 30-year period. In fact, this was the second straight year that Portland’s average summer temperature was precisely the longer-term average.

The mercury only hit 90 degrees or hotter in Portland on one day during that time – July 12 – and the seasonal average high of 75.9 degrees was slightly less than a degree below the long-term average. Likewise, the average low of 58 degrees during the three-month period was roughly one degree warmer than the long-term average.

“A total of 10.15 inches of precipitation fell, which was 0.39 inches below normal and the driest summer since 2003,” the weather service wrote in a summer weather synopsis. “This marked the 12th straight year that Portland saw at least 10 inches of rain during the summer months.”

Sixty-three percent of that rain fell in June, while July and August were somewhat drier than normal, according to statistics compiled by the weather service.

For updates on the state’s foliage season, go to the Maine Foliage website at


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