Yes, it might technically still be summer, but Starbuck’s PSL announcement does not lie: fall is upon us. With autumn comes the thought of foliage—the crisp, vibrant swirl of colors that are short but sweet. And while we have a while longer before the hues actually shift, Smoky Mountains National Park is giving leaf peepers a head start to plan their fall adventures accordingly.
The team just released their annual interactive foliage map, updated for 2018. The tool uses a complex algorithm that predicts a hyperlocal forecast of the precise moment when fall peak will occur, taking precipitation, temperatures as well as historical and observational trends into consideration.
And this year, the Smoky Mountains crew decided to create a secondary interactive graphic that focuses on regional and state data related to temperature variations. This was created based off of feedback from former fall foliage map users, mentioning that they wanted to understand the data-driven process more.
“The temperature data supplied by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is one of the most important factors and now leaf map users can easily visualize the impact of regional precipitation on peak fall dates,” says co-founder of SmokeyMountains.com Wes Melton.
When comparing this year’s map to one in 2017, it looks like the temperatures will remain higher and peaking will occur later on in the fall season. However, while the predictions are as accurate as possible, unexpected rainfall might change the foliage outcome.
“Although simply entering rainfall, temperature data, elevations, and other data points into a model will never be 100% accurate, this combined with our proprietary, historical data drives our model to become more accurate each year,” says Melton. “However, unexpected rainfall that falls well outside of expected trends can always change the peak foliage dates and brilliance.”
Curious about your own region’s foliage? Check out the interactive map for a sneak peek of what’s to come below:
If you want to learn more about the science behind the leaves changing, check out more information on SmokyMountains.com.