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DC’s cherry blossoms just reached their first peak bloom in 20 years. Here’s why scientists say it will continue to happen sooner.

The iconic pink and white flowers that transform Washington, D.C., in early spring have officially reached their first recorded peak bloom in at least 20 years. This is one of the first days it’s happening in the region – and experts say it will likely continue to move sooner.

Flowering reaches its peak when 70% of the Yoshino cherry blossoms planted around DC opens. According to National Park Service, this usually occurs between the last week of March and the first week of April. From 2004 to 2023, the annual peak occurred mainly between March 25 and April 10, with a few exceptions where it occurred as early as March 20.

The service predicted on its website that peak bloom this year would occur between March 23 and 26, but in an update Sunday, the service’s National Mall and Memorial Parks posted an update to the networks social.

“PEAK BLOOM! PEAK BLOOM! PEAK BLOOM! Did we say PEAK BLOOM?!” the agency said. “The flowers open and offer a splendid spring spectacle.”

The agency confirmed Monday that peak bloom arrived on March 17 on its website. But what exactly is causing them to open up earlier? Scientists and national park officials say it’s all about the weather.

“The peak bloom varies each year depending on weather conditions,” the service says, adding that the typical bloom time also depends on weather conditions. “…Cool, calm weather can prolong flowering, and a rainy, windy day can bring an abrupt end to ephemeral flowers. A late frost can prevent trees from flowering.”

Washington’s predicted peak bloom season is expected to come just days after scientists at the Japan Meteorological Agency said cherry blossoms were blooming earlier over time due to rising global temperatures.

Daisuke Sasano, head of climate risk management at JMA’s Office of Climate Change, said at a press briefing last week that, overall, global temperatures have been rising. Scientists have confirmed that 2023 is the hottest year on record and 2024 has already seen record heat.

“It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, oceans and land. Climate change is already affecting every inhabited region of the world, with human influence contributing to many of the observed changes in weather and climate. climate extremes,” his presentation said, citing the United Nations. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “Projected changes in extremes are more frequent and more intense as global warming increases.”

Studying a sample of cherry blossoms – called sakura in Japanese – in Tokyo, Sasano said scientists found that the average start date for cherry blossoms in Japan was earlier, increasing by about 1.2 days every year. ten years. This rate has a “high” correlation with average temperature, he said. And it’s not just Tokyo: several major Japanese cities have experienced earlier blooms over the past 30 years, including Osaka, Hiroshima and Sendai.

The first peak recorded in Washington was March 15, 1990, according to the National Park Service, which added that this year marks the first peak in at least two decades. This comes like the DC saw temperatures above average in January and March. On February 26, Weather Underground recorded a high temperature of 66 degrees Fahrenheit at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, nearly 16 degrees above average.

Global temperatures are expected to continue to rise, worsening extreme weather events and affecting cherry blossoms. Even though emissions of greenhouse gases – one of the main causes of global warming – are now decreasing significantly on a global scale, the emissions already released into the atmosphere will continue to have an impact for decades to come. come.

Nonprofit group scientists Central Climate also said climate change was impacting flowers. In 2018, the organization said that between 1931 and 1960, cherry blossoms in Washington bloomed on average around April 6. From 1981 to 2010, however, the average was April 1. like the first week of March.

Last year’s cherry blossoms remained on the trees for a little over a week. But how long this year’s blooms will last still remains a question. The National Weather Service expects a cold front in the northeastern United States early this week, which could bring snow and wind gusts of up to 30 mph to the region, and although the cool and calm could extend the lifespan of flowers, rain and wind can put an end to it.

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