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This story was published before Summer 2021, when we launched our new digital experience.

We're Going to Have to Wait Longer for Fall Color This Year

One of the most breathtaking natural wonders we can experience is the annual fall foliage display that millions of trees across America treat us to. Unfortunately, experts predict that peak leaf-peeping season will be delayed this year.


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Though summer's not quite over yet (fall doesn't officially start until September 22), soon you'll probably see a few trees starting to turn color. But before you dig out your cozy sweaters for a leaf-watching road trip, take a look at the fall foliage forecast for 2020. According to AccuWeather, which just released their first prediction for fall weather, we should expect another delay this year due to warm weather predicted for September. Air temperatures are an important factor for fall leaf color, and with this year's warm temperatures expected to stick around through September and even into October in some parts of the country, AccuWeather is predicting that peak fall foliage could be delayed by about two weeks this year., a Smoky Mountains tourism site, creates an interactive map to determine peak fall colors across the United States by county. The best color is represented by cherry red, but often the in-between phase of fall foliage is just as beautiful as the full transition. They haven't updated their map for 2020 just yet (the map above is from 2019), but if you want to take a road trip to see fall color this year, keep an eye out for their regional predictions for 2020.

This color-changing map is based on data from the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) on historical temperatures, precipitation, and forecasts. plugs this data into an algorithm that factors in the elements of meteorology (temperature, moisture, sunlight, and precipitation) that impact peak fall color. Although there's no way to predict with 100% accuracy what nature will do, the data collected each year helps to make this map the best prediction possible.

Because the weather is expected to stay warm through September just like last year, it's likely that peak fall foliage will happen sometime in October for most of North America. However, there's no one-size-fits-all date for peak foliage; the leaves in northern states, such as Minnesota, will start to turn sooner than in the Midwest and Southern states, so it's possible peak color could come in early or mid-October in northern states. In New England, for example, current predictions show northern states such as Maine, Massachusetts, and Vermont reaching peak color from October 6-13.

Last year, states in the Midwest, including Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri reached peak color in mid- to late October, specifically around October 19 and 20, and could be on a similar schedule for this year. Western states are a little trickier to predict due to differences in elevation; however, mountainous regions will reach peak color first, potentially in early October, followed by coastal in mid- to late October. Southern states will peak last, and might not reach full fall color until early November this year.

Trees With the Most Colorful Fall Foliage

When your local trees start turning color, you may notice some have more fiery hues than others. For example, you can almost always count on maples to put on a dazzling show, especially sugar and red maples, which are native to much of Eastern and Central North America. No wonder they are honored as the state tree of New York, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Vermont, and Rhode Island!

According to the Arbor Day Foundation, a number of other deciduous tree species also produce traffic-stopping autumnal displays across different regions of the United States. For example, in southern regions, keep an eye out for sourwood and sweetgum trees, which turn vivid shades of red, yellow, and purple. Across the Rocky Mountains, aspens light up the landscape with their golden leaves.

While the fall foliage colors are present in leaves the entire growing season, they wait until the weather starts to turn crisp before they show through, and the green pigment known as chlorophyll fades. Although everyone might be waiting a little longer this year for that to happen, amazing fall colors are sure to come.


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