Thursday, March 15, 2012

New Study: Global Warming Could Push DC Cherry Blossoms into February

Cherry Blossoms 2012 - First BloomThe National Park Service now agrees with what the Capital Weather Gang first predicted - our warm winter will have the Tidal Basin's cherry blossoms challenging the earliest peak bloom record, continuing the global warming-fueled trend. As this photo from Flickr's Richard Cline shows, they're already beginning to emerge.

A 2000 Smithsonian study showed the climate crisis already has the cherry blossoms emerging about a week earlier than they used to - but a new report says that could be just the tip of the iceberg:
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.
Oddly, the study doesn't frame the challenge not as one of limiting our use of carbon-intensive fuels like oil and coal, but one strictly of limiting population growth:
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.
With more near-record warmth forecast today, it's a reminder that we can't wait to cut carbon pollution - and that if we don't, earlier cherry blossoms will be the least of our worries.

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