Left, Feb. 15, and right, March 25. (Kevin Ambrose)

The National Park Service announced that the cherry blossoms officially reached peak bloom early this afternoon, March 25. It’s amazing how quickly the cherry trees matured this year. Just over a month ago, we had snow!

Peak bloom is defined as the day on which 70 percent of the blossoms at the Tidal Basin are open.

This year’s March 25 peak bloom comes about a week ahead of the recent 30-year average of around April 1. It arrives 16 days earlier than the peak blooms of the last two years, which happened on April 10 (2014 and 2015).

Many above-normal temperatures this month — seven degrees above average — accelerated this season’s bloom cycle.

“The National Park Service confirmed this afternoon that both the natural indicators (in the form of a physical inventory of the trees), and the weather data (showing that the 220 ‘heating degrees’ required for bloom had been reached), indicate the beginning of the peak bloom period,” a Park Service press release said.

Today’s peak bloom coincides with the March 24-28 bloom window that Capital Weather Gang predicted on March 8.

What a difference a month makes

I took a quick tour of the Tidal Basin this morning to compare scenes with last month to show the cherry trees’ rapid transformation.

Top, Feb. 15, and bottom, March 25. (Kevin Ambrose)

The weather was not great this morning for photography. Clouds filled the sky, strong breezes shook the cherry tree branches, and the sunrise had very little color. But the cherry trees were still beautiful, covered with white and pink blossoms.

The forecast for poor weather appeared to have kept the crowds away early this morning. The Tidal Basin walkway was uncharacteristically empty for a peak blossom day. A stroll or run around the Tidal Basin was relatively easy compared to other peak blossom days.

There was a hint of color in the clouds at sunrise on March 25. (Kevin Ambrose)

Great viewing through the weekend, at least

While today marks the peak bloom, the actual bloom period typically spans several days and, in some years, even over a week. Its exact length depends on weather conditions. Viewing should be great through the weekend, at least, before some showers threaten early next week. Beyond that, some blossoms may still linger depending on the amount of rain and wind.

I plan to return to take other photos of the bloom this weekend but will need to brave larger crowds, given the better weather.

More photos

Top, Feb. 15, and bottom, March 25. (Kevin Ambrose)

Clouds filled the sky on March 25. The weekend, starting March 26, should have better weather for blossom photography. (Kevin Ambrose)

Two children pose for photos on March 25. The Tidal Basin was relatively uncrowded, possibly due to the forecast for morning showers. The weather stayed dry, however. (Kevin Ambrose)

The blossoms at the Tidal Basin appear to have reached peak bloom on March 25. (Kevin Ambrose)

Recent reader photos

Via our social media feeds, we have received some beautiful images captured over the last 24 hours. Here is a sampling:

Cherry blossoms on March 24. ( Katherine Judd via Flickr )

More cherry blossom coverage

Tracking the cherry blossoms to peak bloom: What a difference a year makes

All Capital Weather Gang cherry blossom posts

(Jason Samenow contributed to this post.)