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Fall colors map in Pa. | Here's where to see the best colors as the leaves change

The vibrant colors of fall are made in the late summer months, with temperature and moisture crucial factors.

PENNSYLVANIA, USA — Editor's note: The above video is from Sept. 26.

In the aftermath of the days upon days of rain with what was the remnants of Hurricane Ian, Autumn seemingly took the Commonwealth over more quickly than the flip of a switch. 

And while so far South Central Pennsylvania has seen mere glimpses of changing color, it won't be long before the reds, yellows and oranges on the trees take hold.

Each week, the Department of Conservation of Natural Resources updates its Fall Foliage Report. The latest, from October 6th, shows the the commonwealth beginning the fall swing. This trend is about a week or so earlier than last year.  

Over the past two years, I've had multiple conversations with Dr. Christopher Hardy, a biology professor at Millersville University. You'll find some of his previous quotes below.

Autumn colors are made in the summer, especially the month of August. And, after an August that saw Harrisburg only receive 1.14" of rainfall, it isn't a far stretch to believe that the slightly-earlier predicted peak colors could be a result of that.

"Dryness is something that stresses plants. Leaves are a big liability when it comes to water loss," Dr. Hardy said. "If we have drier weather as we approach the fall, then that will accelerate leaf drop."

The month of September also brought us below average precipitation at 3.98", compared to the average of 4.83". That slight difference combined with a very dry August just might speed up the peak colors by a week or so, if you look at the DCNR's map compared to peak time from last year.

Credit: WPMT FOX43
Fall colors peak map from 2021.
Credit: WPMT FOX43
Predicted peak fall colors forecast for 2022.

It's a delicate balance between temperature and precipitation. Warmer temperatures prolongs leaf drop, because the trees don't "think" snow is coming as early as average temperatures rise due to climate change. But, you get a borderline drought like we did by early September, the leaves think it's time to head out and concentrate on the moisture in the tree.

And even with the high rainfall amounts of the past week with the remnants of Hurricane Ian, the leaf color-changing process was likely already in the making.

The reason the trees go through this process is pretty simple.

"Over the years, plants have adapted themselves to sense when the days are getting shorter and the nights are getting longer, because what's going to follow that are the snow and ices. They want to lose their leaves before they come," Dr. Hardy said.

The FOX43 Weather Team would love to see every and all fall foliage pictures you can take throughout the month. Send them to us with the new "Near Me" feature on the FOX43 app. Your photos will not only stay on the app and be able to be identified to your township, street, even your neighborhood, but we may even use them on-air and online as well.

Until next time,

-Chief Meteorologist Bradon Long 

Download the FOX43 app here.

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