As prime leaf-peeping approaches, John Sinclair with the Green Mountain and Finger Lakes National Forest said weather patterns are setting us up for some beautiful color this autumn.
But first, why do the leaves change color, anyway? VPR's podcast for curious kids, But Why, posed that question to Mike Snyder, the commissioner of the Vermont Department of Forest, Parks and Recreation.
Leaves are green because they contain the chemical chlorophyll, Snyder explained, which appears green to our eyes because it's reflecting the green wavelengths of light.
In the fall, shorter day length signals broad-leafed trees to get ready for winter, which includes an end to chlorophyll. The green color fades, unmasking yellows and reds that were there all along.
So that's the "why" of fall foliage. What about this year's forecast?
"The temperatures that we’ve been having recently—with warm days and cooler nights, but avoiding that early hard frost really is setting us up for the potential of some really nice colors coming into this fall,” Sinclair said.
While peak varies depending on where you are, Sinclair thinks we're getting close.
"For the Green Mountain National Forest in south and central Vermont we generally see peak anywhere from the last week of September all the way through the second week in October ... But you can generally start finding peak colors in pockets around the state and the Green Mountain National Forest right now, and definitely within the next week, you’ll start seeing peak colors. Especially at the higher elevations.”
Sinclair offered some suggestions for scenic drives.
"Middlebury Gap, Route 25 in Addison County is always a very nice drive, as is Route 73, Brandon Gap," he offered.
"Route 100 north or south off of Route 4 will provide some stunning scenery, and mountain views that show good color. And if you’re down further in the state, Kelly Stand Road, coming out of Arlington and heading over to Stratton, is a really nice country scenic road that will bring you through the mountains with some overarching tree limbs and really provide that tree cover—wrapping you up in the color of the trees as you’re driving across the road.”
Listen to the full foliage forecast above to hear more about how the weather is sharping prime foliage season, and drives and other locales from which to view the leaves.
Broadcast on Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019 at noon; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.