Our nation's capitol is more than just the stage for the current season of America's Got Issues. Washington, D.C. is home to some of the most beautiful cherry blossom trees in the world, the sight of which is famous enough to draw visitors from all corners of the globe each spring. So when will the cherry blossoms bloom in 2017? According to predictions by the National Park Service (NPS), the trees are anticipated to reach peak bloom far earlier than usual — this year may even see the earliest bloom on record.
Each year, the NPS runs a Bloom Watch for the Tidal Basin area, monitoring bud development and recording the state of the blossoms. On its website, the service points out that it's extremely difficult to predict peak bloom — the day when 70 percent of the Yoshino Cherry blossoms are open — more than 10 days in advance, partly because it's so dependent on weather conditions. If it were any other year, this would mean peak bloom predictions would still be a distant prospect; typically, the most trees open in late March or early April.
But as it turns out, 2017 is shaping up to be just as weird as 2016. On Wednesday, the NPS announced that they expect Washington's cherry blossoms to reach peak bloom between March 14 and 17, 2017.
According to Cherry Blossom Watch, the earliest known bloom was March 15, 1990. If the NPS turns out to be correct, this year will replace that record to become the earliest bloom in history. (According to USA Today, the latest bloom on record took place on April 18, 1958.) This has led organizers of the National Cherry Blossom Festival to move the event five days earlier, beginning on March 15 rather than March 20. However, it will still continue as scheduled until April 16.
In case you needed a reminder that climate change is a thing that is currently happening, the reason for the early bloom has been attributed to Washington's recent bout of unseasonably warm weather. In fact, last month wasn't just the warmest February on record for the area; the Washington Post reports that it was almost a degree warmer than an average March. As the NPS points out, warm weather tends to encourage cherry trees to bloom early— which is exactly what's happening this spring.
The capitol's famous Yoshino Cherry trees were a 20th century gift from the Mayor of Tokyo to the city of Washington, D.C. On March 27, 1912, Helen Herron Taft and the wife of the Japanese ambassador, the Viscountess Chinda, planted two Yoshino trees in a simple ceremony that eventually grew into the National Cherry Blossom Festival.
If you won't be one of the millions of visitors headed to the festival this year, you can check out the next best thing: the NPS' Cherry Blossom Cam offering views of the fluffy white trees. If you're anything like me, hopefully the breathtaking blooms will mitigate your blossoming paranoia about the state of the environment.