Fall has arrived and with it the promise of stunning beauty

Fall has arrived and with it the promise of stunning beauty
Photo courtesy Flickr user rkramer62 (Creative Commons).

PORTLAND, Ore. - Imagine walking outside on a crisp autumn day, kicking your feet through the leaves on the ground and looking up at the trees that are changing colors with the season.

Fall is here and that's what we have to look forward to in the coming months. Of course right now summer is still hanging around (which we're really not complaining about) and the trees still have their leaves.

But since it is now officially fall, we thought we'd give you a visual reminder of what's to come. Autumn really is a beautiful time of year, even if a lot of us aren't looking forward to raking up all the leaves from our yard.

Now in case you're wondering, there is a science to how leaves on trees turn into such brilliant colors in the fall. It has to do with three types of pigments - Chlorophyll, Carotenoids and Anthocyanins. The USDA Forest Service has a detailed explainer:

There are numerous lists about the best places in the United States to view fall foliage - generally Vermont, Massachusetts and other East coast states rank high.

Who knows why the Pacific Northwest - with all of its trees and forests - generally gets left out but perhaps that's just as well so we can keep the beauty to ourselves.

If you're looking for a great place to view fall foliage, you can check out the Oregon Fall Foliage blog or call the Fall Foliage Hotline (yes - there is actually a hotline for this) at (800) 547-5445. The folks who manage the hotline get weekly updates on fall colors throughout the state and can give you the best recommendations on where to go. There is also a Fall Foliage Hotline for Washington state - the number is (800) 354-4595.

And finally, did you know that the first day of fall - Sept. 23, 2011 - marks the autumnal equinox? What does that mean? KATU Meteorologist Dave Salesky explains:

"The Greek Astronomer Hipparchus is credited with making the discovery of the Equinox.  At 2:05 Friday morning on the west coast the sun crossed earths equatorial plain. Neither the North nor South Pole was oriented towards the sun."

"At the equator the day is divided into two equal parts, each 12 hours long. At the equator the sun will rise at 6am and set at 6pm."

"Why September 23rd and not the 21st?  It has to do with the calendar, each year the equinox is falls about 6 hours later. On leap years the equinox jumps back a full day.  The reset on leap years helps minimize the drift of the equinox date."

"In 2012 the fall equinox will happen on September 22nd."