In the United States, the beginning of autumn means chilly days and colorful leaves. Leaf-peepers – tourists who are attracted to the colorful fall display – drive to the northeast in droves to revel in the spectacular colors. Viewed from the ground, fall foliage colors appear bright and vivid. Viewed from space, the colors are not as intense, but the expansive view provides a stunning display of nature’s response to the change in season.
In this natural color image, captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer aboard the Aqua satellite on October 8, 2010, the changing of the seasons is well underway. In the north of the image, oranges and reds mix with green to form a broad circle that marks the Adirondack Mountains, which are just passing peak coloration. The Green Mountains in Vermont also show orange-red coloration, while the New York Finger Lakes region is more yellow, indicating that the color change is just beginning. Trees that change color earliest in the season, such as ash, aspen and birch, tend to turn yellow, while many of the latest trees, such as oak, tend more towards russet or red. This is a tendency only – at any given time, foliage in the northeast will contain leaves of any hue.
The Appalachian Mountains are marked as swirling lines of alternating brown and greens mottled with yellow and orange. The brown indicates valleys, which are rich agricultural land where the foliage of the crops are brown or harvest has occurred. The tan areas in Indiana, Ohio and southern Michigan, in the northwest of the image, likewise indicate agricultural land.
On the east coast, the foliage remains green, without appreciable change. The waters of the Delaware Bay are full of tan silt, as are sections of the Chesapeake Bay. Off the coast of North Carolina and Massachusetts, green ribbons stretch out into the Atlantic Ocean, mostly likely marking blooms of chlorophyll-rich phytoplankton. The major cites on the east coast – Washington DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Providence and Boston are easily distinguished by their gray coloration.