The cosmos put on an epic eclipse show. Now, it’s time to turn our attention to the next natural spectacle: Mother Nature’s fall foliage display.
But as anybody who has ever planned weekend getaway around the fall colors knows, it can be tough to nail down when the leaves will change colors and be their most vibrant. That’s because Mother Nature’s variables come into play.
A quick primer: Changes in the length of daylight and cooling temperatures halt the leaf’s food-making process. When the chlorophyll breaks down, the green color disappears and offers the autumnal cues for leaves to change hues.
Thankfully, to help better plan our leaf-peeping expeditions, SmokyMountains.com published an expansive and interactive fall foliage prediction map. This tool gives us a solid of idea of when the leaves will hit their peak.
The interactive map spans coast to coast and predicts the different phases of fall foliage colors. This includes stages like patchy, partial, near peak, at their peak and past peak. The national forecast goes out until the end of October.
For example, the map shows the week of Sept. 17 as prime leaf-peeping time in the Rocky Mountains. Northern parts of Michigan, Minnesota, Vermont and New Hampshire should peak around mid-September. Coastal parts of the United States, though, will peak around the beginning of October.
The tool comes with a fair warning, though. It can’t be considered 100 percent accurate. But it aims to be pretty darn close. The map helps travelers better time their trips to have the best opportunity of catching peak colors.
To build it scientists use precipitation and temperature data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), historic leaf peak trends and peak observation trends.
Fall foliage forecast
So, what can we expect this fall?
“Due to the heavier precipitation throughout the summer months, this year’s leaf model is predicting an earlier-than-typical peak fall,” said Smoky Mountains’ data scientist Wes Melton in a news release.
Other than the Pacific Northwest, the data scientists are expecting warmer-than-average fall temperatures from September to November, according to SmokyMountains.com. These warmer temperatures translate to a longer color season. Whoo-hoo!
To enjoy the colors in the Great Smoky Mountains, the National Park Service recommends a few scenic routes through the park: Clingman’s Dome Road, the Blue Ridge Parkway or the Foothills Parkway.
So, Now it’s time to start planning that scenic road trip to view the fall foliage! Happy leaf peeping!
[H/t: Good Housekeeping]