Washington, D.C.'s famed cherry blossoms are blooming very early this year, thwarting some tourists' plans and surprising those who happen to be in town for the annual event. Although nature can be difficult to predict, some scientists say the early bloom comes during a long warming trend that could signal climate change at work.
Cherry trees are very sensitive to temperature, not just how hot it is getting during the day, but also how cold it gets at night. Scientists say the high nighttime temperatures in particular make the blossoms more likely to bloom early.
Climate scientist Dr. Soo-Hyung Kim says the blooms are on track to arrive earlier and earlier each year if current warming trends continue. He says, in one scenario, the cherries could come between five and 13 days earlier by the 2050s. In another scenario, the trees could bloom between 10 and 29 days earlier by the 2080s, meaning a peak bloom in late February.
"I think it's an iconic part of Washington, D.C., that we've all heard about for -- growing up and you always see pictures of it. And it's great to have a chance to really see it and be a part of it." - Bill Eidson, tourist, Washington, D.C.
"Every degree of temperature that you add can have quite an impact on their process of flowering." - Dr. Soo-Hyung Kim, University of Washington
"It's much warmer this year than what it has been, and the trees are simply reacting to the temperatures." - Bill Line, spokesman, National Park Service
1. To you, what are the signs of spring?
2. What happens when a plant blooms?
3. What is climate change?
1. Do you think it's a problem if Dr. Kim's predictions come true and the cherry blossoms bloom earlier and earlier every year? Why or why not?
2. Have you noticed warmer-than-usual temperatures where you live lately? If so, what have been the consequences?
3. Why is it important to study trends in nature such as when plants bloom? What do scientists learn from that?
Mild Winter, Early Spring Bring Talk of Climate Change: