Across the northern hemisphere, leaves are currently turning from deep summer green to the most brilliant shades of red and orange, yellow and gold.
It’s quite the show, and for ‘leaf peepers’ in the Lower 48, it’s possible to take a look at a virtual, interactive map to see just where the tree leaves are at their brilliant best.
At SmokyMountains.com, publicly accessible data such as National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration precipitation forecasts, temperature forecasts, and average daylight exposure gets collated and synthesized in order to create a map that changes color according to where the most colorful scenes might be seen across the States.
Co-founder of the map, David Angotti, noted that its predictions aren’t quite perfect. It might show amazing fall colors happened in the middle of Arizona, but if there are no deciduous trees in that area—of course there won’t be much of a show.
“I wish I could make fall happen in South Florida or in the desert,” Angotti told the Washington Post, “but at the end of the day, the math is basically showing when the temperature and precipitation trends would cause peak fall to occur in each of these areas.”
So just why do leaves change their color? According to SmokyMountains.com, “As the fall days begin to get shorter and shorter, the production of chlorophyll slows to a halt, eventually giving way to the ‘true’ color of the leaf.”
When it gets cold, the trees then “slowly close off the veins that carry water and nutrients to and from the leaves with a layer of new cells that form at the base of the leaf stem, protecting the limbs and body of the tree.
“Once the process of new cell creation is complete, water and nutrients no longer flow to and from the leaf—this enables the leaf to die and weaken at the stem, eventually falling gracefully to the ground.”
Graceful is the word. We hope it’s beautiful where you are right now.