Discover fall foliage maps and where to see the fall foliage

Changes in leaves start occurring when trees receive less light. The lack of chlorophyll can reveal yellow, orange and red pigments leading to the best fall foliage colors.

As the country moves deeper into fall, temperatures won't be the only thing changing across the country's northern tier. 

The transition also marks the start of the changing of the leaves, which makes for some spectacular photos during peak fall foliage season.

Peak fall foliage season is highly contingent on your location and, in some areas, can start as early as late September and peak in either October or November.

What is fall foliage?

While the colors depend on the chlorophyll in the leaves, weather conditions during the summer and early fall can play a big role in how extravagant the sights are. The lack of chlorophyll can help reveal the sought-after yellow, orange and red colors, which usually are bountiful during rainier periods.

Large deviations from normal precipitation, either on the dry or wet sides, can greatly impact the foliage season.

"The drought is a big factor this year. Where the drought is worse, the peak is going to be really quick, really fast, and the leaves are going to come down," Yankee Magazine fall foliage expert Jim Salge told FOX Weather. "There are areas up along the Canadian border, all across the northern tier of the country, from Minnesota to Michigan to the Adirondacks, where the drought is a lot less severe. And we expect the colors to be bright and early, especially if we get some cold snaps coming down in September."

Drought Tracker
 


 

Experts say during a drier season, leaves tend to turn colors earlier and will end the process quicker than in years with more precipitation.

Where is the best time and place to see the fall foliage?

Most of the country will be in peak foliage season during October. In the lower 48, communities along the Canadian border will be the first to reach this status.

The peak foliage dates vary each year but usually fall within a couple of weeks of past fall foliage peaks.

Typically, fall foliage peaks along the Northern Tier of the county, as well as northern New York and Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, in early October.

Peak fall foliage season usually begins in mid-to-late October in parts of the Midwest, the Northeast and southern New England.

Mid-November is considered to be one of the latest dates to see significant changes in leaves. Areas outside of the colored zones do not usually have a significant amount of trees that lead to that brilliant red, yellow and orange colors.

Don't give up on the fall foliage season just yet…

More than two-thirds of the country is experiencing drought conditions, which could lead many to believe that the fall foliage won't be as impressive as in previous years, but Salge warns it may be too early to decide the season's fate.

"The best thing for fall foliage is timely rainfall, cool nights, warm, sunny days. Those are the types of things that really kick-start the foliage," Salge said.

But as FOX Weather multimedia journalist Katie Byrne reports, some leaves on trees in the Philadelphia area and other parts of the Northeast are already turning shades of brown, red and yellow.

She said people in the Philadelphia area started noticing leaves changing colors back in July.

Byrne traveled to the Morris Arboretum, where some trees are more than a hundred years old, to learn more about how drought could affect when leaves begin to change their colors.

Experts say it's the older trees and younger trees that are most affected by the conditions.

"Trees are reacting to this drought by protecting themselves," said Jason Lubar, associate director for urban forestry at the Morris Arboretum. "They do that by letting go of their leaves when it's very hot and very dry. The leaves actually stop working."

Lubar said when temperatures reach into the mid to upper 90s, leaves begin to shut down.

"And if they shut down for long periods, the trees realize that it's under stress," he said. "So, it sends out hormones that cause the trees to drop."

Make sure your trees get plenty of water

Peter Fixler, the chief arborist at the Morris Arboretum, suggests that during times of drought, it may be better to water your trees, not your lawn.

"Maybe save watering the lawn to save watering your trees," he said. "Lawns go into dormancy. Trees will not. They'll just kind of desiccate. They may go on a downward spiral if you don't keep on them enough. That could be a lot more expensive than replacing a lawn."

The changing of the leaves means big money for towns and communities that are fortunate to see the bright colors, an expert with Appalachian State University estimated the annual event results in around a $30 billion economic impact in the classic sightseeing areas.

FALL PREDICTED TO BE WARMER, DRIER THAN AVERAGE ACROSS MAJORITY OF US

While it may be too soon to tell when the leaves will peak this year, a recently released climate outlook may not be the dream that fall enthusiasts hoped to hear for seeing the brightest colors.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center believes much of the country could see a drier and warmer start to fall than normal.

Due to these expected conditions, experts say it is unlikely that the entire country will see classic fall foliage season, meaning sightseers will have to take into account the year's weather conditions to find the best viewing opportunities.

 
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