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Nothing to See Here!


Everything’s fine! We’ve got this climate thing under control!

Amid an exceptionally warm March in Japan, the cherry blossoms in Kyoto peaked Friday, the earliest in more than 1,200 years of records. The record bloom fits into a long-term pattern toward earlier spring flowering, a compelling indicator of climate change, experts say.

The March 26, 2021, peak bloom date surpassed the previous record holder of March 27, 1409, nearly a century before Christopher Columbus sailed to America. The long-term record dates back to A.D. 812, about 12 years after Charlemagne was crowned Holy Roman Emperor.

“The Kyoto Cherry Blossom record is incredibly valuable for climate change research because of its length and the strong sensitivity of flowering to springtime temperatures (warmer springs = earlier flowering, typically),” Benjamin Cook, a research scientist at Columbia University who specializes in reconstructing climate data from the past, said in an email.

Unique for its longevity, the cherry blossom time series shows the average peak bloom date was relatively stable for about 1,000 years, from about 812 to 1800. But then, the peak bloom dates slope abruptly downward, revealing a shift earlier and earlier in the spring.

“Since the 1800s, warming has led to a steady trend toward earlier flowering that continues to the present day,” Cook said. “Some of this warming is due to climate change, but some is also likely from an enhanced heat island effect due to increased urbanization of the environment over the last couple of centuries.”

Due to its length, the data record is a treasure, having been maintained by emperors, aristocrats, governors and monks over the centuries. Most recently, Yasuyuki Aono, a scientist at Osaka Prefecture University, has tracked the blossoms and posted the data online.

Cherry blossoms have burst unusually early all over Japan this spring. In Tokyo, they reached full bloom March 22, their second-earliest date on record and earliest since 1953, according to Japan Forward. It marked the ninth earlier than normal bloom in a row, the Forward reported, following nearly a week during which high temperatures climbed to at least 68 degrees (20 Celsius). The average full bloom date is March 25.

I dunno…..it’s awfully hard to remain optimistic about the planet’s future. I have a lot of students who face very real depression issues over climate change. And I don’t really know what to say to them. I just try to help them channel their anger somewhere useful.

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