February 23, 2019

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Japan’s Cherry Blossoms (Some of Them) Appear Months Early

Japan’s Cherry Blossoms (Some of Them) Appear Months Early
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An unusually strong typhoon season may have caused some of Japan’s famous cherry blossom trees to bloom several months early.

Weathernews, a weather site in Japan, said it had received more than 350 reports this week of emerging cherry blossoms, which typically attract tourists from around the globe in April, when they usually appear.

With few exceptions, the picturesque pink flowers don’t reveal themselves in the fall. But Hiroyuki Wada, an arborist for the Flower Association of Japan, told the public broadcaster NHK that extreme weather had stripped the trees of leaves, which produce a hormone that inhibits the buds from growing. In September, Japan was walloped by Typhoon Jebi, its strongest storm in 25 years.

“This year’s storms affected wide regions, and the strong winds may have caused the blooming,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Mr. Wada said the premature bloomings wouldn’t spoil the cherry blossom festivals and viewing parties, known as hanami, that are held every April. While the flowers blooming now won’t do so again in the spring, they represent a small fraction of the blossoms that will appear on schedule.

Still, the premature blooming suggests an additional threat to the beloved trees from climate change, which scientists say is increasing the frequency of “very intense” storms and leading to stronger, wetter typhoons in the Pacific (and hurricanes in the Atlantic).

Major storms aside, the cherry blossoms in Japan are blooming earlier now than they have in 1,200 years of recorded data, a fact that scientists generally attribute to warmer temperatures.

For roughly 1,000 years until about 1850, the flowers typically bloomed around April 17. Now the expected arrival date is around April 6.

A similar effect has been seen in Washington, where Japan sent thousands of trees in 1912 as a gift. There, the usual bloom date moved up to April 1 from April 6 between 1921 and 2017, according to The Washington Post.



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