1 Oct

Map of the Week: The Changing Colors of Leaves Across the U.S.

By: Nathaly Garzon

September 23rd marked the official start of a new season: Autumn. With autumn comes fall foliage, which refers to the way leaves change colors during this season. Over the course of the next few weeks, leaves will transition from green to deeper, warmer hues such as red, orange and brown.

Every year people around the United States take pleasure in observing fall foliage, which tends to occur at different rates across the United States. Smoky Mountains, a cabin rental site, releases a fall foliage prediction map annually. Factors like daylight hours, temperature data and precipitation are analyzed to make an accurate prediction of the foliage. This map helps us get a better understanding of what colors leaves are changing into.

The map above shows the prediction of fall foliage for the week of October 5th. On the lower right hand corner you will find the legend, which indicates how far along the leaves are in terms of changing colors. 

Areas covered in green indicate that the leaves have not experienced any change in color. Leaves found in Florida, Alabama and other southern states have not experienced any change. Thus, they are presented as green on the map.

After green is light yellow, which describes a minimal change in leaf color. States like Virginia and parts of Nevada are highlighted in light yellow since their leaves have started to change from green to light yellow. The colors that follow light yellow range from a mustard yellow (Patchy on the legend) to a deep brown (Past Peak). This range is representative of leaves changing from light yellow to colors like orange, red, and eventually, brown. States in the North like Michigan and Washington are well into fall foliage. Therefore, they contain the peak, near peak, and partial peak colors as presented in the legend. 

A great feature about this map is the fact that it can be adjusted by week. 

The bar below the map allows you to adjust it by every Saturday until November 30th. Previously, the first map had the bar set to October 5th. The above map’s bar is placed October 19th. As you can see, fall foliage will have progressed by then as states that were still green in the first map (Kentucky, Oklahoma, Texas etc.) will begin to have patchy and partial legend colors.

Interestingly, some states even have their own dedicated fall foliage map. This is particularly true for states in the New England area, including New York and New Hampshire, which often experience high numbers of tourists seeking picturesque views of fall foliage during this time of year. As a result, they make sure to create informative foliage maps for prospective tourists.

This map depicts fall foliage in New York for the week of September 25-October 1. To see more about the report, click here.

Unfortunately, climate change has been delaying the time at which fall foliage occurs. Just last year, fall foliage didn’t begin until late October. Many of the leaves simply changed to brown as well, which led to small, sparse areas of red and orange leaves.

While climate change has been delaying fall foliage, we can still expect to see beautiful, vibrant colors in our leaves this fall.

Sources: 1, 2