Fall Foliage Forecast 2017

Peak Fall Foliage Dates

Oct 5, 2017
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One of the joys of fall is the beautiful fall foliage—the reds, oranges, yellows, and browns. How will weather affect their color? Is it a good year for pretty leaves? See our 2017 fall foliage forecast.

See our Fall Foliage Map for peak foliage dates!

Fall Foliage Forecast 2017

For the first time in years, we have a glorious fall foliage forecast! The drought has subsided, our summer was mild, and the leaves are healthy.  Last year (2016), while the Great Plains and Midwest have had good rains, the East and West were dry. So, the leaf season was especially short, especially for leaf peepers in New England and the Southern Appalachians. Also, in past years, gypsy moth caterpillars attacked drought-stricken trees.

This year, the trees have been largely spared and are looking healthy across the country.  This means the leaf color should be vibrant and striking instead of muted. From the East to the West coast, get out and enjoy the pretty foliage while you can, and let us know how the leaves look in your area! See our glorious Autumnal Equinox page about the first day of fall, facts, and folklore!

How Does Sunlight Affect Autumn Leaves?

Surprisingly, it is not the weather that is the primary factor that determines when the leaves turn. It’s the amount of sunlight. Leaves manufacture chlorophyll, which stores the energy of the sun. It’s chlorophyll that gives leaves their green color.

When the days grow shorter during fall, less chlorophyll is created. The green fades, and the colors of other leaf chemicals become visible. It’s amazing how pretty these chemicals can be. Anthocyanins make the leaves look red and purple, xanthophyll colors them yellow, and orange leaves contain carotenoids. It’s a rainbow of chemicals.
See the day length in your area.

Find out more about why fall leaves change color.

 

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Weather determines how vivid the fall foliage will be and how long it will last.  

How Does the Weather Affect Autumn Leaves?

If the weather is cold enough, it can end the chlorophyll production early. This is why the high mountains in Colorado often have an early leaf season. Cold also makes colors more intense.

At the same time, warm weather can increase production a bit, allowing the green to last longer. In the 120 years of US weather records, temperatures have grown warmer, especially in cities, and the leaves now turn a couple of weeks later than they did a century ago. The US east of the Great Plains and most of the Rockies have been warm.

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Temperature departures (°C) over the last 30 days. Source: NOAA/CPC

Dry conditions are rough on trees and actually can end chlorophyll production early, especially for trees that turn red. They may turn red early, but the stress also makes the trees shed their leaves sooner. Dry areas have shorter color seasons.

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45% of the continental US is dry.

 

Fortunately, the drought which affected the 2016 forecast has been eased with precipitation this past year. Given healthy leaf development, we’re in for a vivid season this year! Enjoy those autumn colors. 

About This Blog

Are you a weather watcher? Welcome to "Weather Whispers" by James Garriss and until recently, Evelyn Browning Garriss. With expertise and humor, this column covers everything weather—from weather forecasts to WHY extreme weather happens to ways that weather affects your life from farming to your grocery bill. Enjoy weather facts, folklore, and fun!

With heavy hearts, we share the news that historical climatologist and immensely entertaining Almanac contributor Evelyn Browning Garriss passed away in late June 2017. Evelyn shared her lifetime of weather knowledge with Almanac editors and readers, explaining weather phenomena in conversation and expounding on topics in articles for the print edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac as well as in these blog posts. We were honored to know and work with her as her time allowed, which is to say when she was not giving lectures to, writing articles for, and consulting with scientists, academia, investors, and government agencies around the world. She will be greatly missed by the Almanac staff and readers.

Reader Comments

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Fall foliage in California

Looks like California got left out this year. If you are heading to the Eastern Sierras fall foliage starts around mid September and runs through mid October. The weather in Late September is spectacular. Warm, sunny and crisp.

Also southwestern Michigan has lovely fall color now. It began in early September.

Fall foliage report

You totally ignored the fact that there are beautiful mountains in south-central New Mexico...several towns there are having their Aspencade the end of September, first of October 2017- might want to get up to date and bring your map in on that!!

Foliage

Funny you mention New Mexico! That’s where this author is from!

Fall Foliage

Welcome, James. You have a hard act to follow Evelyn Browning Garriss. May she rest in heaven.

Fall Foilage

I enjoyed the articles pertaining to the Fall Foliage .I learned a lot. thank you so much for sharing. I live close to the Smoky Mountains and Cades Cove.....i am waiting for the trees to turn so I can take a drive to see their beauty....my favorite time of the year!

Winter weather

I live in western Ky. Just wanting info for next 120 days

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