Interactive satellite imagery shows summer turns to fall


Changing the leaves, drying the crops … the summer-autumn transition is happening not only before our eyes, but also from the “eyes” of the satellites.


What would you like to know

  • Dense forests turn green to orange, even visible from space
  • The corn belt turns brown as crops dry out in the fall
  • Satellite images also show daily weather changes from season to season

Let’s take a tour of some of the landscapes of the United States and how they have changed in just a few months.

During the summer, the lush forests of the northeast appear as a deep green of space. Even at 22,000 miles above the ground, you can make out the larger cities. The expanse of urban gray contrasts with green.

In the fall, densely forested areas turn orange. Despite the clouds passing on October 12, you can still spot fall foliage across much of New York State, New England, and southern Canada.

The color of the leaves on this date also shows the topography. The leaves really changed in the higher elevations, while the lower elevations always had a dull green.

The Midwest was just as green in late July, but it wasn’t all trees. All acres of mature crops – mostly corn and soybeans – resemble the woodlands that cover much of Minnesota and Wisconsin. The small towns and even the highways that crisscross the territory stand out from the cultivated land.

The milky color is a haze of wildfire smoke from the western United States

By jumping around mid-October, crops dry out at the start of the harvest season. Instead of a huge green area, satellite images show a much darker view. You can also determine where the forested areas are, even along the river valleys that meander through the country. The colors of the fall leaves in the denser forests, however, are not as noticeable as they were in the northeast.

Further south, the Appalachians light up with colors. Check out the large bands of brownish orange that appear in the high elevations of western North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia.

In the rest of the southeast, the land also loses some of its deep green from summer to fall. But here, let’s focus on the weather, not the land.

In summer, scattered thunderstorms erupt almost daily. This is especially common on the Florida peninsula, where the ground warms up and the slightly cooler ocean air moves inland, creating sea breezes.

These miniature cold fronts are at the center of storms that engulf sweltering moisture and let down localized downpours.

As fall approaches, the air begins to dry out a bit as real cold fronts creep in. Instead of clusters of storms erupting, lots of friendly fair weather clouds develop. If a cold front is strong enough, it can remove enough moisture to prevent many clouds from forming.

While most people think that meteorologists only use satellites to track weather systems, they are also great for seeing how the earth changes over weeks and months. We will see drastic changes again with the return of snow and ice in winter.


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