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Global Warming Blamed for Premature Japanese Cherry Blossom Bloom – Newsweek

In Japan, officials are blaming global warming for the premature cherry blossom bloom.

The nation’s favorite flower, sakura, has previously reached its peak bloom in April but officials with the Japan Meteorological Agency are forecasting that peak bloom will be reached by the end of March.

“We can say it’s most likely because of the impact of the global warming,” Shunji Anbe, an official at the observations division at the agency told the Associated Press.

According to a cherry blossom forecast from the agency released on March 25, the forecast flowering date for the cherry blossom is ahead of the flowering date in an average year, across 14 different areas in Japan. In Tokyo, the forecast flowering date is listed as March 14 and the forecast full bloom date is listed as March 22. In comparison, data from the agency shows that the cherry blossom flowering date during an average year is March 26.

In an email sent to The Washington Post, Benjamin Cook, a research scientist at Columbia University, who focuses on climate data from the past said, “Since the 1800s, warming has led to a steady trend toward earlier flowering that continues to the present day.”

Japan Cherry Blossom
A bench is seen underneath cherry blossoms in a closed zone, to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, at Inokashira Park in Tokyo on March 30. Japan’s favorite flower, sakura, has previously reached its peak bloom in April but officials with the Japan Meteorological Agency are forecasting that peak bloom will be reached by the end of March.
Philip Fong/Getty

For for reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

This year peak bloom was reached on March 26 in the ancient capital of Kyoto, the earliest since the Japan Meteorological Agency started collecting the data in 1953 and 10 days ahead of the 30-year average. Similar records were set this year in more than a dozen cities across Japan.

Some say it is the earliest peak bloom ever based on records from historic documents, diaries and poetry books from Kyoto. Osaka Prefecture University environmental scientist Yasuyuki Aono, who tracks such documents, said the earliest blooms he has found before this year were March 27 in the years 1612, 1409 and 1236, though there are not records for some years.

The agency tracks 58 “benchmark” cherry trees across the country, and this year 40 of those already have reached their peak bloom and 14 have done so in record time. The trees normally bloom for about two weeks each year from first bud to all the blossoms falling off.

Cherry trees are sensitive to temperature changes and the timing of their blooming can provide valuable data for climate change studies, Anbe said.

According to the agency data, the average temperature for March in Kyoto has climbed to 10.6 degrees Celsius (51.1 F) in 2020 from 8.6 C (47.5 F) in 1953. So far this year’s average March temperature in Japan has been 12.4 C (54.3 F).

Sakura have deeply influenced Japanese culture for centuries and regularly been used in poetry and literature with their fragility seen as a symbol of life, death and rebirth.

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