Here in coastal San Diego we don't get a very showy display of fall colors. But no matter where you live, the Internet provides a window where you can watch the Eastern leaves fall from the comfort of your computer chair. Whether you're planning a road trip, curious about the science of autumn leaves, or just want a virtual tour, here's a crop of fabulous fall color sites.
Professor Bassam Z. Shakhashiri of University of Wisconsin-Madison shares his love of science with high school students by explaining the chemistry of fall colors. "The range and intensity of autumn colors is greatly influenced by the weather. Low temperatures destroy chlorophyll, and if they stay above freezing, promote the formation of anthocyanins. Bright sunshine also destroys chlorophyll and enhances anthocyanin production."
Environmental Education for Kids (EEK!) is published by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for kids in grades four through eight. With simple illustrations, this fall color page answers six questions. Why do leaves change color? Where do leaf colors come from? How do leaves change color? Do leaves change color because of weather? Can you tell a tree from its colors? Why do leaves fall? Follow the embedded hyperlinks to related topics such as earthworms and evergreen trees.
"Nature's annual autumn color festival is certainly one of the greatest shows on earth. Each fall, millions of trees in the eastern deciduous forests respond to the shorter days and cooler nights by beginning preparations for their dormant winter period. It is just business as usual for the trees, but for us, it is a spectacular display of the beauty and diversity of nature." This fabulous site from North Carolina includes a visual guide to fall leaves, a detailed scientific explanation of fall colors, and tidbits of fall folklore ("A warm November is the sign of a bad winter.")
The experts in Vermont are expecting a good display of fall colors because of this year's bright and moist summer. "Color is beginning to show in a few trees and in our recent travels, the signs are everywhere throughout the state. It looks as if we will see some good color emerging by the middle of the month, mainly in the northern areas of Vermont and at higher elevations." For virtual visitors, recommended clicks are the 2006 Music Slide Show, and the Leaves of Foliage 1 and 2.
"Fall color starts in September with poison ivy and sumac and ends in November with the larches and weeping willows. Frost and freezing temperatures will stop the coloration process and blacken the leaves." The best clicks here are the lists of autumn links that include Fall Fun (craft projects for all ages), Foliage Cams (from Pennsylvania and Vermont), Foliage Trees (fourteen deciduous trees in no particular order) and Foliage Driving Tours (Midwest and Eastern.)