Spring has arrived in the United States capital, bringing with it a resplendent bloom of pink and white cherry blossoms that is one of the city’s greatest annual traditions.
But this year, as Washington DC residents embrace a relative return to normal after a tumultuous year marked by coronavirus and civil unrest, the flourishing earlier than anticipated may point to another impending crisis: climate change.
Unusually warm weather in Washington accelerated the National Mall’s bloom cycle 3,800 cherry trees, causing flowers to appear days ahead of schedule in what experts say is a new normal that will make their arrival increasingly difficult to predict.
“The empirical data shows that the peak cherry blossom date is occurring earlier than in the past,” said Mike Litterst, a spokesman for the National Park Service.
Washington cherry trees now peak in bloom about six days earlier than 100 years ago. At the same time, measurements from the weather station in the US capital show that the temperature has increased by 1.6C (2.88F).
“Since heat breaks dormancy in flowering trees, the earliest flowering of cherry trees is consistent with warming caused by climate change, although research has not yet examined all the potential factors that could have caused the more flowering. early, ”Litterst said.
Trees in the Tidal Basin reached their flowery peak on March 28, according to the park service, which defines “peak bloom” as the day that 70% of Yoshino’s cherry blossoms open. On March 4, the park service foretold the maximum flowering would take place between the 2 and the 5 of April.
“The Yoshino cherry trees have reached peak flowering after well above average temperatures for much of the last week sped us through the final stages of the flowering cycle,” the agency wrote On Instagram. He added that warm weather propelled cherry blossom buds through the final stages of their six-stage cycle, progressing from peduncle elongation (stage 4) to peak flowering in just four days.
“The four days from the elongation of the peduncle to the peak is the fastest that the trees have gone through the last two stages in the last 30 years (paired in 2015),” the agency wrote.
Peak bloom often occurs between the last week of March and the first week of April, but exceptionally hot or cold temperatures can change the timeline. This year, peak bloom was reached four days before the 30-year average date of April 1.
In 2020, the peak bloom came on March 20, the earliest since 2012, when it also occurred on that day. Flowers are tied for third-earliest on record. In 2018, the peak flowering did not come until 5th of April following wicked windstorms and a late snowfall.
The Washington bloom came just two days after cherry blossoms in Kyoto reached peak bloom on March 26, the earliest in nearly 70 years of formal record-keeping, and possibly never.
“We can say that it is more likely due to the impact of global warming,” Shunji Anbe, an official in the observations division of the Japan Meteorological Agency, told the Associated Press.
The annual show in Washington generally draws as many as 1.5 million visitors to the Tidal Basin, but the coronavirus pandemic has dramatically reduced crowd size for the second year in a row. Local officials urge visitors to wear a mask and practice social distancing.
To deter crowds, the park service limited access to the Tidal Basin during bloom and urged residents to avoid the area entirely and enjoy the flowers remotely. The Trust for the National Mall is organizing a live broadcast of the cherry blossoms.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism