WASHINGTON — It's that time of year again: pumpkin spice flavored everything is taking over. A sign that fall is soon approaching.
The leaves on the trees are putting on a show with the annual routine of changing from green to vibrant hues of orange, yellow and red.
Right now we starting to see more color changes across Virginia, Maryland and D.C.
Fall colors are on display in Shenandoah Valley, with leaves on several trees starting to change color. Park rangers note that the colors on some of the hills are a bit muted, but you'll enjoy a nice glance of gold, orange and bronze. colors. The oak trees are starting to change colors and leaves are slowly starting to fall off the trees along Skyline Drive.
Rangers said fall colors usually peak in the Shenandoah by the 3rd week of October.
The Virginia Department of Forestry reported that fall colors are on high display with some areas near peak or past it.
"Our highest elevation forests, such as the Grayson Highlands, the High Knob area of Wise and Scott counties, and parts of the Alleghenies, are now past their peak, but still lovely," department officials wrote. "Lower elevations, including most of the Blue Ridge, Shenandoah Valley, and Cumberland Plateau, will begin to peak this weekend. Central Virginia is full of color, and even eastern Virginia has partial coloration."
"Thanks to the cool nights and bright sunny days, most areas in central, northern, and western regions are now sporting autumn colors," department officials wrote on their website.
Maryland Department of Natural Resources officials are reporting near peak conditions in Garret County and Allegany.
"A noticeable change has taken place along the trails at Savage River State Forest. Red maple and sugar maple leaves are nearing the peak of color change; showing various shades of red, orange and yellow along the ridge tops and high elevations in Northern Garrett County. Black gum and sassafras are still displaying red leaves while the beech trees are beginning to turn to yellow," Department of Natural Resources officials wrote on its website.
Oak trees are showing only minimal change and are usually the last to change colors. The department noted that some of the white oaks are starting to show signs of orange and red.
"The colors of the foliage, the length of time it lasts, and how soon the show will begin all depend on the weather, primarily rainfall and temperature. For the most part, Maryland avoided the drought conditions that plagued areas across the country this year," Maryland Department of Natural Resources wrote on its website.
"Having a normal or slightly above average rainfall situation bodes well for good fall foliage," the department wrote.
For the immediate D.C. Metro area, fall colors usually don't show up until the middle to end of October.
We will likely start to see some light and patchy color change in the first two weeks of October with more hints of color after October 15. On average, around D.C. fall colors peak around November 7; inside the Beltway around October 31; northern and western suburbs around October 24; Skyline Drive around October 16; and Garrett County around October 10. The 55th annual Autumn glory Festival in Garrett County runs the (Wednesday) 12th - (Sunday) 16th.
Fall officially started on Thursday, September 22 at 9:04 p.m. Eastern. The Smokey Mountain 2022 Fall Foliage Prediction Map, showers color change across the DMV. This includes northern and western suburbs and Maryland and Virginia, Shenandoah National Park. The prediction map shows the potential for peak color change for most of the Metro by October 24th.
Here are some estimates of when the fall colors will peak in Virginia in 2022, courtesy of the Virginia Department of Forestry.
Early October: areas like Bristol, Blacksburg and Roanoke.
The department anticipates colors to start showing up in early to mid-October for areas like Winchester and Danville.
It may not be until the middle of October for fall colors in Alexandria, Richmond and Fredericksburg. Colors will likely not show up until late October for areas like Norfolk and Virginia Beach, based on the department's estimates.
Why Leaves Change Colors
Leaves change colors when plants have less chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is a pigment in plant cells that gives leaves a vibrant green color. With chlorophyll taking a back seat, the hues of red, orange and yellow show up.
Now let's dig into that explanation a bit further. In spring and summer, longer hours of daylight aid in the production of chlorophyll.
Chlorophyll absorbs sunlight and processes energy from the sun to make sugars and starches that trees use for food.
In the fall, daylight hours are shorter, meaning less time in the sun to produce chlorophyll. When chlorophyll production slows and is cut off, instead of green, the other brilliant colors are unmasked from the other pigments in the leaves. Carotenoids give leaves their yellow and orange colors. Anthocyanin gives leaves hues of red.
Keep checking back with the WUSA 9 Weather Team, as we'll begin tracking the fall colors weekly as they begin to change over the next few weeks!