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NPS: Climate change complicating peak bloom predictions

The National Park Service says predicting peak bloom is getting harder every year because of climate change.

WASHINGTON — A still life shot, that's also a moving target. Hobby photographer Jay Vizcarra is on the hunt for peak bloom on the Tidal Basin - a date that's never been easy to pin down.

"I think it actually adds an element of kind of a suspense to it," he said after snapping shots of some early blooms.

This year with a record breaking mild winter in D.C., seeing the future for peak bloom has been nothing like the past say the National Park Service.

"In the last few days that we've been meeting to come up with a date we have been wildly across the board over a two week pattern," said NPS Arborist Matthew Morrison.

"We've never experienced that kind of fluctuation," he said.

Morrison says predicting peak bloom is getting harder every year because of climate change.

"With the climate change, the trees are reacting," he said. "The trees are responding in a way that is unprecedented."

"We've had these trees here since 1912 and we've never seen this activity or this behavior in the entire time that we've been caring for cherry trees on the Tidal Basin," said Morrison.

WUSA9 Chief Meteorologist Topper Shutt says while this winter may be the wildest the trees have seen, it's not the warmest on record - and likely won't be the earliest peak bloom.

"They didn't track (peak bloom) back when we had the warmest winter in [19]31-32," Shutt said pointing out peak bloom tracking started in the 1990s. 

At least for those who call the D.C. region home, they won't have to change travel plans to catch peak bloom.

"Got to take advantage, you know, that this is right here in our backyard," said Vizcarra. 

Morrison, the National Park Service Arborist, says look for more of "floating" date for peak bloom in the future where the date range like the one just announced could change more frequently.

Earliest on record, March 15, 1990 - it snowed five days later.

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