Japan’s cherry blossom is a breathtaking sight to behold, enchanting thousands of locals and tourists every spring with its beautiful white petals that turn pink in early bloom.
The sakura flowers of Japan have always been a symbol of good luck and prosperity. This year though, they bloomed earlier than expected due to warm weather conditions, which scientists say will continue in the following years.
Human-induced climate change has pushed the blooming of the sakura plants earlier than usual. According to the researchers from the Met Office in the UK and experts from the Osaka Metropolitan University of Japan, the climate crisis and the localized warmer temperatures made the “peak bloom” of the flowers happen 11 days earlier.
In 2021, the cherry blossom trees recorded their earliest flowering date in 1,200 years — making a full bloom on March 26, days ahead of its scheduled peak.
In a finding sent to the journal Environmental Research Letters on May 20, scientists predict that the early flowering dates will become more common. Rising temperatures in Japan contributes to this, researchers conclude.
Japan’s temperature increased
One huge factor that contributes to extreme heat in the country is urbanization. Increased urbanization allows more buildings and roads to be created — these structures absorb more heat than the natural landscape in a phenomenon called the heat island effect.
“Our research shows that not only have human-induced climate change and urban warming already impacted the flowering dates of cherry blossom in Kyoto but that extremely early flowering dates, as in 2021, are now estimated to be 15 times more likely and are expected to occur at least once a century,” explained Dr. Nikos Christidis, Met Office’s lead author and climate scientist.
In addition, the scientists said that fossil fuel burning would push the cherry blossom season forward even by a whole week. They found that apart from urbanization, it’s also due to the massive burning of fossil fuels. They say if this continues, Japan should expect earlier peak blooms every year.
On another note, increasing temperatures will negatively affect the surrounding ecosystem. According to experts, it will affect the life cycles of plants and animals – the blooms of the cherry blossoms as an obvious example.
The growth and overall health of economically valuable crops and animals will also be disrupted, leading to challenges in food security and livelihood.