‘Little Pink Warning Flags’: Early DC Cherry Blossoms Signal Climate Change Impacts

Cherry blossoms along DC's Tidal Basin, April 2011 (Flickr's Robert Pos)
Washington DC’s iconic cherry blossoms are forecast to challenge the record for earliest peak bloom thanks to temperatures that reached 80 degrees for the third consecutive day. It’s part of a long-term trend of earlier blooms fueled by global warming and according to a new study, the trees could soon be blossoming in months we think of as winter:

Now comes a team of scientists theorizing that with drastic warming of the globe, future decades could see blossom times not just a few days early but advanced by almost a month.

That could mean a bloom process that begins in January, rather than February, a blooming period in February instead of March, and a peak bloom in early March, instead of early April, the research suggests. […]

According to the more dire global warming scenario the scientists used — one with unchecked global population growth — the District’s cherry trees could be blooming 29 days earlier by 2080 and 13 days earlier by 2050. A less severe scenario, with eventually declining population, had the trees blooming 10 days earlier by 2080 and five days earlier by 2050.

Dr. Amanda Staudt, National Wildlife Federation climate scientist, told DC’s WJLA the early cherry blossoms are a warning sign our climate is rapidly warming and limits on carbon pollution are needed:

Cherry blossoms are blooming earlier this year. Those are like little pink warning flags. […]

We’re emitting carbon pollution into our atmosphere by burning coal, oil, and gas. This carbon pollution acts like a blanket for our atmosphere, keeping extra heat in.

You can watch the full video on WJLA’s website.

It’s not just DC. All across America, the winter and early spring of 2011-2012 will be remembered as extreme. According to NOAA:

  • America had its 4th-warmest winter on record
  • Massachusetts tied its warmest February on record
  • California had its 2nd-driest winter on record

Right now, people in places like our nation’s capital are talking the surprisingly pleasant March weather. But a question lingers at the end of every conversation: If it’s this hot now, how hot will summer get?

Take Action

Email officials at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to let them know you support limits on carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants.