Beyond The Forecast: When and why the leaves will change colors this fall


Happy Monday! One of the best parts about living in the mountains is getting to enjoy the vibrant fall foliage every year.

During the spring and summer, leaves produce plentiful chlorophyll. Chlorophyll allows the plants to turn sunlight into glucose, feeding the trees. The chlorophyll makes the leaves appear green to us.

The production of chlorophyll slows during the shorter fall days and other compounds like beta-carotene (orange colors) and anthocyanins (red colors) become more prevalent in the leaves. That’s why you see the leaves changing in our corner of the Commonwealth.

Your Local Weather Authority is projecting that change to start happening soon, if it’s not already. You can thank wet weather during the spring and summer, as well as recent warm days and cool nights for the coming foliage.


On average, the New River Valley and Highlands sees the foliage peak in color in early October.

Areas like Roanoke, Lexington and Martinsville get the nice colors by mid-October. Finally, Lynchburg, Danville and South Boston see the peak foliage in late October.


Smoky Mountain Tourism has a great tool for predicting when the leaves will begin to change and when we will see peak color locally.

Carolina Weather Group contributor Evan Fisher also created some maps with his projection of the expected peak leaf color in western Virginia.

We love seeing photos of the leaves around southwest and central Virginia, so if you catch any, feel free to share with Your Local Weather Authority via Pin It, social media or email.

Switching gears to this week’s forecast, we’re starting it on a cool note, but eventually, temperatures will bounce back. We expect rain to hold off until at least Friday. Chris Michaels breaks it down for you in our daily forecast article.

You can always get specific forecast details for your zone, whether it’s the Roanoke Valley, Lynchburg, the Highlands or elsewhere around Southwest and Central Virginia, anytime at WSLS.com/weather. Know your zone!

In case you missed it, we’re posting great weather content on WSLS.com. Here are a few links from the past week to check out:

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-- Justin McKee

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