Peter Forister is putting his map-making skills to good use. Forister is a 2019 Virginia Tech graduate who earned a degree in geography with a minor in meteorology. He is building maps for Explore Fall, a website that lets users know the level of color anywhere in the United States.



Peter Forister

Peter Forister
Peter Forister

“We realized there was a significant gap in accurately predicting and analyzing fall colors on a regional scale in the U.S.,” Forister said. “Although there are a few websites or resources that predict fall colors, most rely on almanacs or climatology, and are either at state or county scales.”

Forister set out to create a high resolution, regularly updated map that integrates latitude, real-time weather data, moisture levels, elevation, wind, and foliage health. He integrates satellite data, which requires a strong understanding of remote sensing applications. The ability to create maps of this type and quality is a testament to his work as a Virginia Tech student.

“I think the geography and meteorology were very important for this project. We use several geographic and meteorological variables,” Forister said.

Features of Explore Fall

--A U.S. map showing the level of color based on the gradient of no color, through low, moderate, high, and peak, to past peak. The map has a slider the user can use to set the date and see where the leaves should be in their annual coloration process.

--A map of the U.S. showing the normal times for peak color.

--An archive of maps for past years to compare with projections for 2023.

--A gallery of autumnal pictures from Virginia, North and South Carolina.

--A map of the Blue Ridge Parkway with peak color times.

Highland County

Highland County in autumn
An image of Highland County shot by Peter Forister and published on his web site Peter Forister Photo

Forister is one of three people who work with In addition to building maps, he handles social media, developing engagement campaigns, and creating content like blogs and graphics. An outdoor enthusiast, this project is perfectly suited to his interests.

“As someone who grew up loving the outdoors and outdoor recreation, fall is my favorite time of the year,” he said. “It was easy to get excited about a project that combines my technical skillsets of GIS, geography, and meteorology into an application that directly connects to the outdoors and helping others enjoy it well, too.”

The website is a side project. Forister is chiefly employed as a geospatial analyst for a private firm in central Virginia. He is also well known for his stunning nature photography that he sells and displays through his site Peter Forister Photo.