This year marks a century since Japanese cherry trees first bloomed on the National Mall, in Washington, DC. Over one million people are expected to attend the National Cherry Blossom Festival in 2012.
Scientists have begun to study the bloom dates of cherry trees as an indicator of manmade climate change. The "unabated increase" in global temperatures is leading to an earlier onset of spring in many parts of the world. In Washington, DC, 89 of 100 plants studied showed a 4.5-day advance in first flowering between 1970 and 1999, including cherry trees. A study last November in the journal PLoS One predicts that by the middle of the century, peak bloom dates will occur before National Cherry Blossom Festival.
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