The world-famous cherry blossom trees along the Tidal Basin in downtown Washington are finally starting to bloom. The National Park Service pushed back their projection for the peak blooming time; originally, the forecast called for a peak in late March, but in fact the blooms didn't start opening until this weekend. Last year at this time, the blossoms had already opened and died! The trees peaked on March 20th, and by now, the blooms were long gone. The weather obviously plays a big role in the timing of this showy display!
March of 2012 was much warmer than this past month. Whereas March 2013 ended 3 degrees below normal (taking an average of high and low temperatures), March of last year was way above normal- 10 degrees- making it the warmest March on record. This year, we had some very brief warm spells in early March (4 days in the low 60s from the 9th through the 12th), but there wasn't a consistent stretch of warm temperatures sufficient to trigger the blooming.
Even though March was colder than average, the cherry blossoms are still in great shape because they weren't damaged by subfreezing temperatures. In order for green buds on cherry trees to be damaged, the temperature has to dip below 17 degrees. Our coldest temperature in March at Reagan National was 28 degrees- not even close to being a damaging temperature.
The iconic display of cherry trees surrounds the Tidal Basin, which also provides some insurance against damage. Water acts as a heat sink; the water's temperature doesn't rise and fall as quickly as air. So, being close to a body of water prevents big temperature swings in the immediate area. That means it's a lot less likely for the thermometer to dip to a damaging temperature for those cherry blossoms!
You've probably already figured this out, but there's still time to check out the gorgeous display downtown. I think the blooms will still be visible on the trees next Saturday, April 13th, during the Cherry Blossom parade. If you can't make it to the parade route, you can catch the show on WUSA9 starting at Noon on Saturday! My friends Andrea Roane and Mike Hydeck are hosting the parade. It should be a lot of fun!