It might seem like every year the bright colors of the fall foliage sneak up on you in the blink of an eye — one minute it’s just the barest hint of yellowing around the edges, and the next, you look around and there’s nothing but vibrant red and orange. But pinpointing when exactly those leaves will turn isn’t as arbitrary as you might think. In fact, the team of researchers at Smokymountain.com have pinpointed the dates when the fall foliage is expected to peak in our region: October 17 to October 24.
“In 2013, potential visitors to the Smoky Mountain region began asking us questions about when the leaves would be most brilliant. From these questions, we built the first version of the fall leaf map and have consistently improved it each year,” said David Angotti, the founder of Smokymountain.com, in a recent press release. “What started as a fun side-project quickly became the most respected nationwide fall leaf map, and one of the best fall resources in the country.”
It’s not just the peak date that can be predicted. Using their data model, they also created a map of the entire continental U.S., demonstrating a week-by-week progression of how the colors are expected to change. Slide the bar at the bottom, and you can see how close to peak the leaves will be at the selected date.
In order to make this prediction, the team uses data which considers multiple factors, like the type of tree found in an area, precipitation and temperature statistics, user data, and historical trends. Starting this year, they even allow users to report foliage sightings in real time.
“However, similar to any meteorological forecast that is dependent on weather variables, the leaf predictions are not 100 percent accurate,” Angotti said. “That being said, after publishing our predictive fall foliage map for nearly a decade, we are confident in our data sources, process, and algorithm.”
This information can give you a hand in visualizing how quickly those leaves really shift, and can be a helpful tool in deciding when to take on those festive fall activities you’ve been planning. After all, activities like Shenandoah’s Skyline drive or a hike and a picnic at one of the area’s parks are fun year-round. But if you ask us, they just pack a little extra punch when the timing is right.
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