When Are the Fall Leaves at Their Peak?


One of the great things about living in an area that has seasons is you get to see the leaves change colors in the fall. If you're a big fan of seeing the leaves at their peak, you could actually travel around the country and see the leaves at their peak for several weeks (a la surfers traveling around the world to have an Endless Summer). And in order to try that you might need a map!

Before we create that map, here's a picture of some great fall leaves from my friend Eva. She took this wonderful picture at Hanging Rock State Park, right here in North Carolina:

The Smoky Mountains website has an interactive map to help track when the leaves will be at their peak (see screen-capture below). You can select the week, and then see a color-coded map. It's pretty cool. Click here to try it out:

But as I played with it, I started noticing a few deficiencies (you know how picky I can be!)

  • The text in the color legend was a bit small and difficult to read.
  • The week-selector bar under the map had a gradient color, but the colors didn't really seem to have anything to do with the map.
  • The year and dates were very small, although that was the most important text on the map.
  • The light-colored county and state borders let the yellow color visually blend in with the white background.
  • And there was nothing to help you find out the names of the states (for those who are a bit geographically challenged).

So, of course I decided to create my own version, to see if I could make a few improvements! Thankfully they had the data available on their webpage, and I wrote some SAS code to read the foliage-2017.csv file directly from that location. I transposed the data, assigned date values to their time increments, and then I was off to the races! Here are a few of the improvements I made.

  • I made the text in my color legend larger and bold, making it easier to read.
  • I eliminate the week selector bar, and set my map up as a gif animation, playing in an endless loop (so you don't have to select the week).
  • I made the date and year about twice as big as the other text.
  • I eliminated the county outlines, and made the state outlines gray instead of white -- now the yellow color gets visually separated from the white background.
  • And I created an HTML overlay with mouse-over text so you can easily find out each state name.

Below is a still image, but be sure to click through this link for the full gif animation. You should also click through this link to view the version with the HTML overlay with the mouse-over text with the state names.

Click through this link for the full gif animation.

Click through this link for the full gif animation.

Now all you need is a motor home or camper, and a few weeks of vacation, and you can have that "Endless Fall" trip you've always wanted!

Robert Allison, The Graph Guy!, SAS

Robert Allison has worked at SAS for more than 20 years and is perhaps the foremost expert in creating custom graphs using SAS/GRAPH. His educational background is in computer science, and he holds a BS, MS, and PhD from North Carolina State University. He is the author of several conference papers, has won a few graphic competitions, and has written a book calledSAS/GRAPH: Beyond the Basics.

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Re: Prediciting the best color
  • 12/4/2017 11:46:48 AM
NO RATINGS

Making the graphic colors meaningful should well make it not only more pleasing to the eye but help to understand what's being depicted. If only others would think about what the viewer needs and would like to better understand quickly the data presented.

Re: Prediciting the best color
  • 11/22/2017 8:58:40 AM
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Rbaz writes

A visually appealing image will captivate the audience long enough to have the message sink in. The changing colors of autumn is captivating enough and should be advertised with comparable appeal. Great job!

This is a good point. Robert's graphic viz follows the general color patterns of autumnal foliage change, so it actually conveys the "feel" of the physical change while conveying data analysis at the same time. Very nice.

 

Re: Prediciting the best color
  • 11/21/2017 1:33:13 PM
NO RATINGS

It's all about keeping the audience engaged with the material presented. A visually appealing image will captivate the audience long enough to have the message sink in. The changing colors of autumn is captivating enough and should be advertised with comparable appeal. Great job!

Re: Prediciting the best color
  • 11/21/2017 10:21:24 AM
NO RATINGS

It seems the TV news and weather programs are increasingly looking to snazzy graphics to hold viewer attention. One can only hope that besides the fancy appearances the graphics are designed well so as to depict what they are supposed to show and make it easy for viewers to quickly comprehend the message.

Re: Gorgeous site for a...
  • 11/20/2017 10:15:04 PM
NO RATINGS

Broadway suggests

I think they just hang rocks off the cliff so that they can dry off a rain storm. Just trying to stay positive here. 

Sorry, I can't help being cynical. Actually, Hanging Rock Mountain (from which the park is named) seems to get its name from the quartzite formation which juts out (i.e., hangs out) from near the peak like a chin.

Back to Robert's graphic visualization of autumnal foliage peaking ... a definite improvement, of course, over the original, but it runs so fast I could not easily correlate dates with points in the color progression. 

 

Re: Gorgeous site for a...
  • 11/19/2017 10:21:47 PM
NO RATINGS

I think they just hang rocks off the cliff so that they can dry off a rain storm. Just trying to stay positive here. Or maybe ancient peoll used to do pull-ups off it.

Gorgeous site for a...
  • 11/19/2017 10:50:25 AM
NO RATINGS

Broadway writes "You got a gold mine here."

That view from Hanging Rock State Park is spectacular. Makes me wonder how many guys they hanged there.

 

Re: leaves
  • 11/18/2017 6:52:58 PM
NO RATINGS

@PC I'm having her read what you wrote. She has quite a bit of time to plan, as her dream is to do in the summer of 2019.

Re: leaves
  • 11/17/2017 10:12:25 PM
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One summer I did a cross-country trip something like the one your daughter has in mind. We saw beaches from Southern California to Boston and many, many points in-between. But our summer travel was limited to about 15 or 20 states and that was plenty.

I would ask which places and sites she would put at the top of her list. Then do some research to see how much time it takes to really see a place like D.C. or Yellowstone.

Re: Prediciting the best color
  • 11/16/2017 10:47:43 PM
NO RATINGS

You got a gold mine here. Not only the tourism business up north but there's gotta be a tv station or two that would pay for this technology to jazz up their weather coverage (and predictive skills).

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