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Warmer temperatures mean earlier blooms for cherry blossom trees

By Rachel DeSantis
April 06, 2021 03:38 PM
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Visitors of Inokashira Park enjoy boating during Cherry blossom
Tourists visit cherry blossoms in Tokyo
| Credit: Stanislav Kogiku/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty

Global warming is slowly but surely heating the earth — and with the hotter temperatures comes the earliest cherry blossom season Japan has seen in more than 1,000 years.

Japanese cherry blossoms, known as "Sakura," reach a peak bloom each year that lasts several days, and this year, they peaked in Kyoto on March 26, the earliest date in 1,209 years, CBS News reported, citing data collected by Osaka University.

Though the blossoms have occasionally peaked over the years on March 27, this year's date is the first time they've been this early since 812 AD.

"Sakura blooms are very temperature sensitive. Flowering and full bloom could be earlier or later depending on the temperature alone," researcher Yasuyuki Aono of Osaka Prefecture University told CNN. "The temperature was low in the 1820s, but it has risen by about 3.5 degrees Celsius (6.3 degrees Fahrenheit) to this day."

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Aono's records reportedly show that peak blooms in Japan used to be later, but began moving from the middle of April to early April in the 1800s thanks to a variety of factors, including weather and rainfall.

CNN reported that according to the International Journal of Biometeorology, Kyoto blossoms are blooming about 10 days earlier than they did 100 years ago.

This year's March 26 peak was 10 days ahead of the 30-year average, and similar early records were set in Japan this year in more than a dozen different cities, the Associated Press reported.

As early blooms are caused by warm springs, the stats check out: the average March temperature in Kyoto has risen to 51.5 degrees Fahrenheit in 2020 from just 47.5 degrees Fahrenheit in 1953, according to the AP.

"Cherry blossoms catch the eye, people love to go see them, but lots of other plants are experiencing changes in their life cycle as well, and may have even stronger influence on the stability of their ecosystems," Amos Tai, associate professor of Earth System Science at the University of Hong Kong, explained to CNN.

Meanwhile, early blooms didn't just happen in Japan — according to the Washington Post, the trees in Washington, D.C. hit peak bloom ahead of schedule, as March temperatures averaged about four degrees above normal.