Climate Change and Cherry Blossoms in Washington, D.C.


We’re here in Washington, D.C. during the national
cherry blossom festival. Annually, the festival attracts
about 1.5 million people. It’s estimated from the visitors who attend the National Cherry
Blossom Festival that they put in about 150 million
dollars’ worth of economic impact to this area. This setting is extraordinarily
special, for over a century, Washington DC’s flowering
cherry trees have heralded the beginning of spring and
served as an enduring symbol of international friendship. This is a time of year when we
have people coming focused on a natural resource. These trees are greatly valued because they are a
wonderful symbol of friendship between nations; the original trees were a gift from Japan in 1912. Now cherry tree dates
vary from year to year, but the long-term trend shows
earlier and earlier blooming. Here in Washington DC,
weather station measurements since 1946 show a
statistically-significant temperature increase of 1.6
degree Celsius per century, double the global rate. In flowering trees, heat
breaks winter dormancy, so earlier cherry
blooming is consistent with heating caused
by climate change. Man plans and Mother
Nature laughs, you know? We can do our best
to plan the festival around the median
peak bloom date, we can just base our estimates
off of history and science. Phenology is the timing of life
events in plants and animals. A great example is
right here, the blooming of the cherry blossoms
along the tidal basin in National Capitol
Parks, Washington DC. Phenology is a potential
indicator of climate change. Published research by the Smithsonian Institution
shows a statistically significant advance of spring
blooming of cherry trees in Washington, DC by 7
days, from 1970 to 1999. A potential vulnerability
of climate change is that it could create a
mismatch in phenology. That is a mismatch between when
flowers bloom and when bees and butterflies and
other pollinators mature and are ready to pollinate. Published scientific
research shows that if we don’t reduce
our emissions from cars, power plants, and deforestation, additional warming could advance
spring blooming by another week to month by the end of the
21st century. With the more than 25 million visitors
that we receive on the national mall each year, the challenges are
certainly great in regards to climate change, but the
opportunities are great too. It’s our hope
as visitors come and enjoy this wonderful area,
and specifically these trees, that they will have a
sense of stewardship and want to help the National Park
Service protect our treasures. When visitors choose
to bike or to walk or to use our recycling containers,
they make a real difference in helping to reduce our
greenhouse gas emissions. When people leave this area,
they can carry that message with them too, so we can have
a wonderful ripple effect, of instilling a sense of
concern for the environment and stewardship. This
festival is deeply rooted in the mission of
the Park Service. We have culture and history
on display before our eyes. These are relics, these are
cultural icons and we have to do our best as visitors,
as rangers, as Americans, as international
guests, to make sure that we take care
of our resources. So that future generations can
experience the same events we have an opportunity
to enjoy today.

One thought on “Climate Change and Cherry Blossoms in Washington, D.C.

  1. If you wander through the cherry trees in this full bloom , you will be enveloped in that nice scent of cherry blossoms .
    Your soul will be covered with the crystal of deep emotion and pleasure .

    From Tokyo in Japan
    Which national are you watching this video ?

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