Mapping Fall Color

California Fall Color Map

Each Friday during Autumn, the California Fall Color map (righthand navigation bar) is updated by hand, after reports have been received and verified.

So, it lags what’s been reported and is current only on the day it’s been updated. Nevertheless, it is a snapshot of how autumn color is changing across the state.

Above is the map as updated today (Fri., Sept. 24). Hiding behind green leaves are yellow and orange leaves. To see greater detail, click and enlarge the map. To learn more about a location, click the leaf.

Mono County (9/24/21)

At left is a blowup of where Patchy and Near Peak color is being seen in Mono County, presently. Areas of California that produce a lot of reports have greater detail. Areas that rarely get reported are only as reliable as the latest report submitted to California Fall Color.

When a location is reported as Patchy, but then is not reported about for a couple of weeks, I will upgrade its rating to what should be happening based on what’s been seen in nearby areas at the same elevation or historical pattern. That’s why the California Fall Color Map, while a helpful representation of where color is changing, is not precise. The accuracy of the map depends on receiving reports from spotters throughout California.

When an area is nearing Past Peak, we are cautious to not declare it as Past Peak until most of the color has fallen, as there’s still beauty to be seen. This is a subjective decision, but one that over time has proven to be prudent.

However, please note that once a brown Past Peak leaf has been placed in a given area, other peaking locations near the same elevation are likely to become Past Peak momentarily. So, haste is needed to see peak color at those locations. An exception is burn areas over which brown leaves have been placed.

The most accurate way to know the color status of a specific location is to read posts like this on the website. Dated photographs confirm reports. We appreciate all reports, even if they are for Just Starting locations, as they help others conclude when it is likely to be peaking there.

To contribute to the map, include a photo, mention the location where and the day when the color change was seen and email your report to editor@californiafallcolor.com

There are several fall foliage maps across the United States. Most, in our opinion, seem not to be based on what’s actually happening at those locations, but are general forecasts of what should or might be appearing.

Great Smoky Mountains Map

In particular, national maps that include California are often based on hunches rather than actual reports. One example is the Great Smoky Mountains Map (above) which uses a slider to indicate where fall color might appear by date. However, for California, it’s total nonsense and has nothing to do with what really happens, here.

Worse, it entirely misses the San Bernardino, San Jacinto and Laguna Mountains, turning all of Southern California past peak without any sense of what really happens. The reason it is so incorrect is because it’s based on what happens elsewhere in the United States. Namely, color appears by latitude first, then elevation. Whereas in California, color appears by elevation and latitude has little to no effect.

For example, in the Smoky Mountains map, it suggests that Patchy color west of Lake Tahoe is appearing now, but entirely misses the Patchy to Near Peak color actually being seen now in the Eastern Sierra. All that peak color it shows supposedly being seen in the Rockies isn’t there, either. The map is useless.

The California Fall Color Map, on the other hand, is based on actual reports received in the week preceding the Friday on which the map is updated. We do not make things up as these other maps seem to do. We report what’s been seen or model projections based on recent reports.

 

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