(WXIN) – As fall begins on September 22, leaf seekers in most parts of the United States will have to wait a few weeks until the peak of foliage, according to a prediction map.
The Smoky Mountains are one of the most popular places to catch color-changing leaves, and its 2022 fall foliage forecast map is a tool designed to help travelers decide the best time to visit.
Using a complex algorithm, the map predicts fall foliage county by county based on millions of data points. Data includes historical temperatures, historical precipitation, forecast temperatures from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; historical leaf peak trends and even user-generated information.
The northernmost states of the contiguous United States are the first to see the leaf change, and the trend is slowly trickling down to the southernmost states.
In the United States, peak foliage occurs between October 3 and November 21.
For visitors to Smoky Mountain, leaf viewing doesn’t get any better than the week of October 31.
In the Midwest, the second and third weeks of October are typically peak times, depending on your location, according to the Almanac. The change begins at the end of September.
In the New England region, also popular for its colorful fall leaves, peak foliage will be around October 10, according to the Foliage Forecast Map.
Why do the leaves change color?
Chlorophyll is the compound that gives leaves their green color and helps plants by converting sunlight into “food” through photosynthesis.
As the days get shorter and cooler in the fall, the chlorophyll in the leaves breaks down and reveals the natural colors underneath, including red, orange and yellow.
The colors are based on chemicals in the leaves like carotenoids and anthocyanins, according to Harvard Forest.
What is the effect of the weather?
“Another important part of leaf watching is knowing the right time to leave!” according to the Almanac. “For the best experience, not only should the leaves be near their peak colors, but the weather should also be nice.”
While many people prefer blue skies and full sun to see the vibrancy of changing colors, others say a lightly overcast day could make the colors appear to “pop against the dark sky”.
The least desirable conditions are rain and wind, the latter of which can lead to prematurely denuded trees, the Almanac said.
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