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Early Blossoms

BLOSSOM FESTIVAL Every year, Washington, D.C., hosts the National Cherry Blossom Festival. PEDRO UGARTE—AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Spring is cherry blossom season. Some cities get millions of tourists during this time. But the trees are blooming earlier and earlier. This is a sign of global warming.

In the 1960s, cherry trees in Tokyo started blooming around March 29. Between 1991 and 2000, the average was closer to March 24. Last year, the blossoms in Tokyo began on March 14. That was earlier than anywhere else in Japan.

“The fact that Tokyo recorded the earliest start date is due to global warming,” Daisuke Sasano told Bloomberg News. Sasano works at the Japan Meteorological Agency.

Climate scientists believe that cherry trees need the winter chill. Without it, they may produce fewer flowers and fruits.

Climate change has also affected cherry trees in Washington, D.C. Rising levels of the Potomac River and crumbling seawalls have flooded the trees’ roots. More than 150 of them will be cut down.

This summer, the National Park Service (NPS) will begin repairing the walls. More cherry trees will be planted. The removed trees will be mulched. NPS spokesman Mike Litterst says the mulch will break down into rich soil, “so it’s a good second life” for the trees being cut down.

STUMPY'S LAST SPRING One tree being removed is Stumpy, a social-media phenomenon.


Stop & Think! Why did the editors choose these two photographs to publish? Can you think of other images that would help tell the story?