As the country moves from summer into fall, temperatures won’t be the only thing changing across the northern tier of the country, the transition also marks the start of the changing of the leaves that make for some spectacular photos.
The annual fall foliage is highly contingent on your location and, in some areas, can start as early as late September and peak in either October or November.
Yellow autumn leaves on trees around the 3rd and Spruce Recreation Center in Reading, PA Wednesday afternoon November 10, 2021. (Photo by Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images)
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.
"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," 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 (FOX Weather)
Experts say during a drier season, leaves tend to turn colors earlier and will end the process quicker than in years with more precipitation.
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.
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.
NOAA's precipitation outlook for meteorological fall (September through November). (FOX Weather)
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.