Sunday, September 17, 2017

Early Autumn 2017_High Knob Massif Area


September 16, 2017
High Knob Massif - Elevation 3186 feet
Early Autumn In Big Cherry Wetland Valley
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

A cool first half of September in 2017 has accelerated color changes in the high country 
of the High Knob Massif.

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High Knob Naturalist Rally

Do not forget the 11th Annual High Knob Naturalist Rally to be held again this year in majestic High Knob Lake Recreation Area on September 30, 2017.

My preliminary weather forecast is calling for chilly conditions this year, so be sure to plan on dressing for late autumn weather in the high country 
( stay tuned for updates as time gets closer ).

September 16, 2017
South Fork of Powell River Basin
Early Autumn In Big Cherry Wetland Valley
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Some of the most advanced color changes are in 
the high basins where cold air drainage and pooling has featured nights in the 30s amid colder places.

Big Cherry Wetland 4
September 1-16 Temperatures
Elevation 3186 feet

Average Daily MAX: 65.3 degrees
Average Daily MIN: 45.6 degrees
MEAN: 55.4 degrees
Highest Temperature: 74 degrees
Lowest Temperature: 35 degrees

An average low of 37.7 degrees during September 7-10.

Large Cinnamon Ferns ( Osmundastrum cinnamomeum ) are adding to autumn color on the floor of wetland valleys of Big Cherry Lake.

That this much color is seen is not surprising.  
The MEAN daily temperature has been 9 to 10 degrees lower than down in the Tri-Cities.  So just wait until the mean in the TRI drops by 9 to 10 degrees and see how much color is seen there. 

Better yet, merely look at long-term climatology which shows that the MEAN daily temperature typically drops to between 55 and 56 degrees ( Fahrenheit ) in the Tri-Cities by October 18-19.  While shortening days certainly play a role, mean temperature is a major factor.

September 16, 2017
Valley Floor 1037 feet Below High Knob Peak
Early Autumn In Big Cherry Wetland Valley
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Big Cherry Wetland 2
September 1-16 Temperatures
Elevation 3248 feet

Average Daily MAX: 61.4 degrees
Average Daily MIN: 48.6 degrees
MEAN: 55.0 degrees
Highest Temperature: 69 degrees
Lowest Temperature: 39 degrees

September 16, 2017
Upper Tennessee River Basin
Early Autumn In Big Cherry Wetland Valley
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Following a morning low of 46 degrees the afternoon was mostly cloudy, with a few sprinkles of rain amid the wetland valley of Big Cherry Lake.  The max temp reached 73 degrees in the open valley and a humid 68 degrees in the forest near the valley head.  

September 16, 2017
Turbulent Skies Produce Only Sprinkles
Early Autumn In Big Cherry Wetland Valley
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

I have observed these early color changes along high valley floors of Big Cherry Lake basin for a long time, and it is not unusual for trees here to be past peak or even bare by the time of the general peak in this region. 

Trees here change and drop leaves often long before thermal belt ridge locations, such as along Little Mountain ( in the High Knob Massif ) and the Sandy Ridge-Wise plateaus, and typically change long before they do in most of Powell Valley and the lower elevations.

September 16, 2017
Early Autumn In Big Cherry Wetland Valley
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved


High Knob Lake Basin

September 16, 2017
Looking Across High Knob Lake Basin
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Looking across High Knob Lake basin the most color is where cold air drains downward into the basin, along northern exposed slopes.

High Knob Lake
September 1-16 Temperatures
Elevation 3527 feet

Average Daily MAX: 62.1 degrees
Average Daily MIN: 48.6 degrees
MEAN: 55.4 degrees
Highest Temperature: 70 degrees
Lowest Temperature: 41 degrees

September 16, 2017
High Knob Lake - Elevation 3527 feet
Early Autumn In High Knob Lake Basin
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

The impact of this acceleration in color that will now be followed by a week or two of above average temperatures remains to be seen with respect to the peak and its quality, as these initial changes may stall or allow these leaves to dull or fall off
prior to the main peak.

Some of this is not atypical, as I noted above, but this year many places are experiencing early color changes due to unseasonably cool September conditions.

September 16, 2017
Late Afternoon Light With Breaking Clouds
Early Autumn In High Knob Lake Basin
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

September 16, 2017
Late Afternoon Light With Breaking Clouds
Early Autumn In High Knob Lake Basin
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

September 16, 2017
Early Autumn In High Knob Lake Basin
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

September 16, 2017
Early Autumn In High Knob Lake Basin
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

September 16, 2017
High Knob Lake of High Knob Massif
Early Autumn In High Knob Lake Basin
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

September 16, 2017
Early Autumn In High Knob Lake Basin
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved


Benges Basin

September 16, 2017
Water Elevation 3318 feet
Upper Norton Reservoir of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Benges Basin always features early color changes, with the Upper Norton Reservoir being an ideal and easy to reach location for anyone wanting to practice photographing water reflections.  Light winds are an absolute necessity if you want 
mirror-like images.

Graduated Neutral Density, Warming, and Polarizing filters are what I use to bring out the most vivid water reflections.

September 16, 2017
Late Afternoon Water Reflections
Upper Norton Reservoir of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

September 16, 2017
Late Afternoon Water Reflections
Upper Norton Reservoir of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

September 16, 2017
Late Afternoon Water Reflections
Upper Norton Reservoir of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

September 16, 2017
Upper Norton Reservoir of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved


Color Progression
Weekend September 23-24

Atypical Autumn Haze
High Country of High Knob Massif
Looking Across Big Cherry Lake Basin
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Color is progressing in the high country, and currently is in various stages ranging from 
mostly green to brilliant to bare trees.

Atypical Autumn Haze Near Sunset
High Country of High Knob Massif
Looking Across Grindstone Ridge
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

There is plenty of great color, but some trees have likely suffered from such an early change followed by a shift to warm, dry days.  Many trees, of course, are yet to change.

High Knob Massif
Early Autumn In The High Country
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

This despite a shift toward mild to unusually 
warm conditions across the high country.

High Knob Massif
Beauty In High Knob Lake Recreation Area
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Yes, numerous trees are already bare around the summit level of the massif with many leaves falling.

Near High Knob Lookout
Bare Trees On Summit of High Knob
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Eagle Knob
September 1-23 Temperatures
Elevation 4188 feet

Average Daily MAX: 62.1 degrees
Average Daily MIN: 51.4 degrees
MEAN: 56.8 degrees
Highest Temperature: 73 degrees
Lowest Temperature: 41 degrees

Looking To Eagle Knob Communications Complex
Bare And Browning Trees Along High Crestlines
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

High Knob
September 1-23 Temperatures
Elevation 4106 feet

Average Daily MAX: 62.5 degrees
Average Daily MIN: 51.8 degrees
MEAN: 57.2 degrees
Highest Temperature: 73 degrees
Lowest Temperature: 42 degrees

While low-mid 70s might not seem unusually warm, maximum temperatures during the June-August period of Summer 2017 only reached 
77 degrees on Eagle Knob ( northern slope ), 
78 degrees on High Knob ( southern slope ) 
and 80 degrees at High Knob Lake.

Early Autumn In The High Country
Looking North From High Knob Lookout
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

High Knob Lake
September 1-23 Temperatures
Elevation 3527 feet

Average Daily MAX: 64.8 degrees
Average Daily MIN: 50.4 degrees
MEAN: 57.6 degrees
Highest Temperature: 76 degrees
Lowest Temperature: 41 degrees

Colder mountain valleys in the massif have averaged in the mid-upper 40s by night, with numerous nights already having dropped into 
the 30s during the first half of September.

The lowest temp during Summer 2017 dipped into the 30s, so when the first real deal push of autumn air reaches the high country by late next week into early days of October then 20s to lower 30s will become common within mountain valleys 
( widespread frost and sub-freezing conditions ).

The average September 1-23 low temperature in the Tri-Cities, of 54.7 degrees, remains nearly 3 degrees ( 2.8 ) above the average summer night observed in the Big Cherry Lake wetland valleys.  So despite one of the cooler first halves of September on record in the TRI, it has still been significantly milder at night than the typical summer night in these high valleys ( 2.8 degrees per night = 255 total degrees of difference for the summer season ).

Elevation 3527 feet
High Knob Lake Recreation Area
Autumn Beauty At High Knob Lake
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Some nice color is developing in one of the typical valley frost pockets, locally known at The Glades, amid extensive wetlands within the head of the Glady Fork Valley.

Elevation 2900 Feet
Big Stony Creek Basin of Clinch River
Glady Fork Wetland Valley of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Vegetation is so thick that it is hard to get around in the wetland valley, as my University Of Virginia's College At Wise microclimatology class found out during the weekend.

High Mountain Valley of High Knob Massif
Thick Vegetation In The Glades Wetland Valley
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

The Glades contain around 50 acres of wetlands sitting at an elevation of around 2900 feet above sea level.

High Knob Massif
Upper Portion of The Glades Wetland Valley
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Valley floors become progressively higher in elevation upon traveling west and southwest from Bark Camp Lake, which itself rests in a respectively high valley at just over 2700 feet. 

Full Pool Elevation 2734 feet
Little Stony Creek of Clinch River Basin
Early Autumn Colorations At Bark Camp Lake
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

High Knob Massif
Golden Rods ( Solidago spp. )
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Color is not all in the trees at this time of year, with many plants and animals adding to the glorious spectrum of hues filling the mountain landscape.

Hanging Out On My Truck
Marbled Orb Weaver ( Araneus marmoreus )
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Trees do get most of the attention, and when using a telephoto lens it is possible to see much color development along upper northern slopes, in particular, of the high country.

High Knob Massif
Colorful Northern Slopes In Upper Elevations
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

High Knob Massif
Colorful Northern Slopes In Upper Elevations
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

High Knob Massif
Colorful Northern Slopes In Upper Elevations
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Despite a long day with my students, I just could not pass up stopping by Benges Basin as sunset was fast approaching and the air turning cool.

Water Elevation 3318 feet
Benges Basin of Powell River
Upper Norton Reservoir of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

In this case, a good decision.

Autumn Beauty at Upper Norton Reservoir
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

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