Japan Records Its Earliest Cherry Blossom Bloom In 1,200 years, Scientists Say Climate Change Is the Culprit

Fuji+and+Sakura+Blossom+at+Kawaguchiko.

Getty Images

Fuji and Sakura Blossom at Kawaguchiko.

Jacob Nguyen

Japan’s famous cherry blossoms, known as “Sakura”, are white and pink flowers that experience a peak bloom that only lasts a few days in the spring. However this year, the cherry blossom has been one of the earliest blooms on record. Scientists warn that this may be a symptom of a larger climate crisis, threatening ecosystems everywhere. 

In the central city of Kyoto, cherry blossoms peaked on March 26, this is the earliest bloom in over 1,200 years. In the capital, Tokyo, cherry blossoms bloomed on March 22, the second-earliest on record. As global temperatures rise, the blooming in the spring has shown the trend of happening earlier and earlier. In Kyoto, the peak bloom has been around mid-April for centuries. In the 1800’s, the trend hovered around early April. The presence of flower bloomings in March have been a very rare occurrence, only happening a few times in history. Since Sakura blooms are temperature sensitive, cherry blossoms have been happening about 10 days earlier from 100 years ago due to rising temperatures. 

This matters because of the reliance that plants and insects have on each other to survive. The relationship between insects and flowers have been building for thousands and millions of years. In the past, their life cycles would have been synced to have them reach a simultaneous growth in the spring. Now that Sakura flowers are blooming earlier, the flowers may not have enough pollinators, directly affecting the amount of food available for insects. 

Over the past decade, plants and animals have been adjusting to climate change by shifting to higher altitudes, and this isn’t only Japan’s problem as cherry blossoms in Washington, DC have been observed to have bloomed a week early. This same phenomenon is already affecting economically valuable plants in different ways such as through droughts, crop failures and swarms of locust. Due to shifts in the global temperature, it is becoming harder to predict climate patterns and ecological systems.