From the Post’s Breaking News Blog:
“Yes, they will be earlier than I predicted,” the park service’s cherry blossom expert, horticulturist Robert DeFeo said in an e-mail to the festival. “I do not anticipate any changes in the forecast.”
The blossoms “are moving and won’t slow down — not with night temps staying in the 50’s,” he wrote. “Blossoms will be out in time for the opening of the festival — but won’t last until the end.”
Over the last 20 years, the earliest peak bloom on record occurred on March 17, 2000. Prior to that, the earliest known bloom happened on March 15 in 1990.
At the moment, the blossoms are trailing March 2000 in their development by about four days. Peduncle elongation - the stage prior to the penultimate stage of emergence of puffy white - occurred this morning. In March 2000, peduncle elongation was reached on March 10.
Continued unseasonably warm afternoons and mild nights should allow the blossoms to quickly advance to the final stage of peak bloom within 5-10 days.
While the cherry blossoms march towards a bloom two weeks ahead of average, tree pollen is also coming out early according to the U.S. Army Allergen Lab. Over the last three days, the tree pollen count has risen from 33 grains per cubic meter Monday to 129 Tuesday to 225 today. Levels have averaged well above normal since mid-February.
Washington Post Cherry Blossom Festival coverage
Cherry Blossom timeline: A century of drama and beauty
Washington’s century-old cherry trees: wizened but still able to bust a bloom
Your Cherry Blossom photos (gallery)
Poll: when will the cherry blossoms peak?
Cherry blossoms with an overcast sky (PHOTOS, 2011)
Washington’s cherry blossoms in the snow (PHOTOS, 2011)
A cherry blossom bird’s-eye view (PHOTOS, 2010)
Cherry Blossoms Wind Down as D.C. Greens Up (PHOTOS, 2009)
Cherry Blossom Morning (PHOTOS 2009)
Washington D.C.’s Cherry Blossom Bloom Begins (PHOTOS, 2009)
Photography: Falling Blossoms & Spring Scenes, Kevin Ambrose (2008)
Photography: A Blooming Good Time (2008)
Photography: Glorious Cherry Blossom Sunrise (2008)
Photography: Cherry Blossoms by Night (2008)
Photography: Flying High as Spring Blossoms (2008)