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Cherry blossoms explode, reach peak bloom 10 days ahead of average

Warm weather pushed the blossoms to peak bloom on the eighth-earliest date on record

Cherry blossoms frame the Jefferson Memorial on Sunday. (Joe Flood)

Aided by unseasonably warm weather since mid-February, Washington’s famed cherry blossoms hit peak bloom on Monday. This year’s peak is 10 days ahead of the recent 30-year average of March 31.

Records of the cherry blossoms’ peak bloom date at the Tidal Basin go back to 1921. This year’s March 21 peak bloom date marks the eighth-earliest peak bloom on record. The earliest peak bloom occurred on March 15, 1990, and the latest on April 18, 1958.

Peak bloom is defined when 70 percent of the cherry trees’ buds are flowering.

This year’s peak bloom coincides with the very beginning of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, which runs from March 20 to April 17.

The blossoms can remain at peak bloom for up to a week under favorable weather — namely, light winds and no precipitation. Petals fall off more quickly if there’s rain, snow, frost, unusually warm weather and/or strong winds.

This week’s weather forecast promises picture-perfect blossom-gazing conditions through Tuesday with warm temperatures and light winds, but Wednesday will bring rain. While the rain may strip some petals off, viewing should still be good Thursday and Friday. Blossoms will probably pass their peak by the weekend amid breezy and cooler conditions.

Peak bloom comes a day ahead of predictions from both the Capital Weather Gang and National Park Service, which forecast the peak between March 22 and 26.

The blossom buds got off to a fast start this year, thanks to multiple days with highs in the 60s and 70s in late February. It was Washington’s 18th-warmest February on record, 2.6 degrees above normal.

March has been especially mild, averaging five degrees above normal, with high temperatures above 70 degrees on six days. The blossom buds withstood a cold spell and snow on March 12 and 13 as they were still encased and had not yet begun to flower.

Due to a trend toward rising late winter and early spring temperatures, the average peak bloom has advanced five days since the 1920s and 1930s, from around April 4 to March 31.

Five of the top 10 earliest peak bloom dates have occurred since 1990. Last year’s peak bloom date of March 28 tied for the 19th earliest on record. In 2020, the March 20 peak bloom tied as the third earliest with four other years. The last three years have seen earlier-than-normal peak blooms.

Here are some beautiful pictures of the blossoms from readers on social media: