Thursday, March 26, 2009
Climate speeds Japan's cherry blossom season
TOKYO (AFP) — Japan's celebrated cherry blossom, which for millions heralds the start of spring, is under threat from climate change, according to experts, who say warmer weather is causing early flowering.
Cherry blossom season officially began in Tokyo this year on March 21 -- five days ahead of schedule and a full week earlier than the average for the last 30 years of the 20th century.
Far from being a freak occurrence, the phenomenon of early blossoming has been happening for several years, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA).
Traditionally, the first sakura -- cherry tree -- flowers appear in the second half of March on the southern islands of the Japanese archipelago and advance slowly up the central island of Honshu towards the far north.
However, according to the JMA, the "blossoming line" -- the latitude where trees start to flower on a given day -- on April 1, which 40 years ago was in the south of Honshu, is now about 200 kilometres (125 miles) further north.
This change, according to JMA climate expert Takashi Yoshida, is caused "by a warming climate and urbanisation."
City temperatures are noticeably higher than those in the countryside, say experts.
The Painting is by Frederick William Hulme