DC’s cherry blossoms have bloomed at earliest point in 20 years. Scientists say it will keep happening

‘Peak bloom’ was reached on Sunday thanks to warmer temperatures

Dan Gooding
Tuesday 19 March 2024 20:20 GMT
Cherry blossoms reach early peak bloom in Washington, DC

The cherry blossoms in Washington DC reached “peak bloom” at the weekend, around a week earlier than expected, with some experts saying it will only get earlier as global temperatures rise.

On Sunday, the National Parks Service excitedly announced that blossoms around the National Mall had reached their height.

“PEAK BLOOM! PEAK BLOOM! PEAK BLOOM! Did we say PEAK BLOOM?! The blossoms are opening & putting on  a splendid spring spectacle. See you soon,” the service said.

The NPS counts the peak as being when 70% of the park’s Yoshino Cherry blossoms are open.

Although the peak varies from year-to-year depending on the weather, this year’s peak on Sunday put the event at its earliest point since 1990 when the blooms opened on 15 March.

The blooms have also arrived late in the past, with 14 inches of snow in 1958 setting the spectacle back to 18 April.

The trees typically bloom for several days, meaning they could still be around for the planned Cherry Blossom Festival this coming weekend, when the flowers were set to peak.

Visitors enjoy cherry trees in full bloom at the Tidal Basin on March 19, 2024 in Washington, DC (Getty Images)

Mike Litterst, a spokesman for the Park Service, told The New York Times that warmer temperatures generally are to blame.

“The warmer it is, the faster the trees will blossom,” Mr Litterst said.

The spectacle in the US capital comes a few days after scientists in Japan released a study on cherry blossoms, which found that the average start date for blossoms is slowly moving closer to the start of the year.

The date, on average, is moving around 1.2 days earlier per decade and matches with the change in global temperatures.

"It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land. Climate change is already affecting every inhabited region across the globe, with human influence contributing to many observed changes in weather and climate extremes," Daisuke Sasano, a climate risk management officer at the Japan Meteorological Agency’s Office of Climate Change, said in a recent presentation.

"Projected changes in extremes are larger in frequency and intensity with every additional increment of global warming."

For now, cherry blossom enthusiasts will be hoping for favourable weather conditions in DC so that they can enjoy the blooms for as long as possible.

The NPS has announced that it will chop down around 140 of the nearly 4,000 trees in May, as part of plans to build taller sea walls to protect the area around the Jefferson Memorial.

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