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This Map Reveals When Fall Colors Will Peak Across the U.S. This Year

See below for the full interactive map. | Edited - Courtesy of smokymountains.com
See below for the full interactive map. | Edited - Courtesy of smokymountains.com

No one wants to be the bearer of bad news, but summer is coming to a close. Sorry. Ritualistic discussion of the return of pumpkin-spice as though it's a prophesized diety has already started. Halloween and back to school talk has infiltrated the planning of beach weekends over your favorite or most-tolerated hard seltzer

Fortunately, autumn has its own charms, not least of which is fall foliage. Peak leaf-peeping season is coming, albeit a little later than usual. SmokyMountains.com has released its annual interactive fall foliage forecast map, predicting when and where leaves are going to be at their prime. Yes, it's time to start planning your apple cider-rich drives through the leafy parts of the state.

Of course, there are a lot of factors impacting when leaves hit their peak, so no map projecting the changing of colors is going to be 100% accurate. A warm spell or a storm that strips the trees of their leaves is going to change the projections. Nonetheless, at the moment, these are the best projections available based on a number of factors, including peak observation trends, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) historical temperatures, NOAA historical precipitation, NOAA forecast temperatures, NOAA forecast precipitation, and historical leaf peak trends. 

"The predictive fall leaf map helps potential travelers, photographers, and leaf peepers determine the precise future date that the leaves will peak in each area of the continental United States," said data scientist and SmokyMountains.com CTO Wes Melton. "By utilizing the date selector at the bottom of the map, the user can visually understand how fall will progress over a region."

The Fall Foliage Forecast & Prediction Map for 2019

In 2017, most of the country hit the peak or was past that point by early October. That's not expected to be the case this year. Similar to the SmokyMountains.com map, AccuWeather forecasts that warm weather will stick around through much of the Northeast and mid-Atlantic well into September, which could lead to a delay in peak leaf season for the Northeast. 

"Similar to a weekend weather forecast, the timing of our map update is important," Melton says. "While meteorology is most accurate immediately before an event, a forecast is more useful to travelers and end-users when made in advance. With our unique blend of historical and forecast data, we are able to make a highly accurate prediction by the end of August."

The forecast is similar to last year for most regions, though, that's not necessarily the norm for all regions. 

"Barring any major wind events, the best displays are going to end up being in the mid-Atlantic states, shifting over to the Ohio Valley and a little bit in the Northeast as well," says AccuWeather's expert long-range forecaster Paul Pastelok. Though, wherever you may be, it's time to start planning a weekend full of staring at trees while munching on apple cider donuts. 


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Dustin Nelson is a Senior Staff Writer at Thrillist. Follow him @dlukenelson.