Discover the maps and see the most amazing colors before it’s too late
The peak fall season is audible, and many trees display a multitude of earthy colors.
However, fall foliage is highly dependent on location and weather conditions in the weeks and months leading up to the peak of the season.
Over the next few weeks, trees in much of the country will reach their peak ahead of the winter months.
What is fall foliage?
While leaf color depends on chlorophyll, weather fluctuations can play an important role in how stunning the views are during fall.
Chlorophyll is the pigment that helps give leaves their color. The chemical compound helps trees make their own food through the process of photosynthesis, which converts sunlight into chemical energy.
A lack of chlorophyll can help reveal the desired yellow, orange, and red colors, which are usually abundant during periods of rain.
The map below from Explorefall.com shows average peak foliage times in the Lower 48.
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What makes the best fall colors?
According to experts at the U.S. Forest Service, a combination of warm, sunny days and cool, calm nights can help promote more vibrant colors.
Nights should be kept above freezing but cool enough to prevent the sugars from leaving the leaves.
Areas that have experienced a wet spring during the growing season, normal summer weather, and a drier fall that lacks the lowest levels of warmth during the night, have the best potential to see brilliant colors.
Orange and yellow colors are present year-round in the leaves, but the green pigment from active chlorophyll prevents their appearance.
Anthocyanin production during autumn is responsible for the red and purple hues, which depend on the amount of sunlight, among other factors.
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What can delay changes in leaves?
Experts said that the late arrival of spring or a major drought in the summer could delay the appearance of colors by several weeks.
The addition of large cold spells or even tropical cyclones, especially along the East Coast, can completely change the season and prevent vibrant colors from popping.
Drought also has the effect of foliage finishing more quickly than in years with increased rainfall.
Typical fall foliage in the country’s northern tier peaks in October, with some higher elevations in the Rocky Mountains and in Alaska seeing the peak of the season as early as September.
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Where can you see the leaves changing now?
Many areas in the country’s northern tier have already reported peak foliage activity, with some communities already reaching the past peak.
Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Wisconsin, Minnesota, New York and Maine outperform most of the country in foliage.
Higher sites usually see the leaves change first and then the colors usually appear lower down in the hills and mountains.
Local maps detailing the condition of fall foliage can be found at Explorefall.com.
Some major cities like Chicago, Detroit and Cincinnati haven’t seen peak foliage for the year, but communities north of Des Moines, Iowa, including Minneapolis, are in peak condition.
Over the next few weeks, cities experiencing widespread or near-peak activity will move into peak season.
The state of the fall foliage has a major economic impact on small communities in that part of the country that depend on fall tourists. A study from Appalachian State University estimated that the annual event results in an economic impact of about $30 billion in classic tourist areas