WASHINGTON — Forget what the groundhog said. Spring in D.C. is marked by when the cherry blossoms start to pop. And this year, spring looks like it’ll be coming a bit early.
The National Park Service announced Thursday the projected peak date for the cherry blossoms along the Tidal Basin will be March 17 to March 20.
On that date, the Park Service believes the Yoshino cherry trees will be at their most brilliant this year.
That would be the earliest peak bloom date since 1990, when cherry blossom buds popped open March 15, and the second earliest on record, since the cherry trees were planted in 1912, according to the National Park Service.
“Spring is always welcome in Washington, DC,” said Karen Cucurullo, the interim superintendent at the National Mall and memorial parks with the National Park Service. “People have been looking outside, looking at the trees, and they’re starting to see a few buds here and there.”
Peak bloom is defined as when 70 percent of the cherry blossoms along the Tidal Basin are in bloom.
“We have analyzed a variety of data including the historic record of previous peak blooms,” Cucurullo told the dozens gathered inside the Newseum for the announcement of this year’s peak bloom dates. Horticulturalists also took into account “winter temperatures, the forecast for March, to determine the projected peak date.”
Still, a lot can happen in the next two weeks. A strong cold snap could end up pushing back peak bloom. Conversely, a stretch of warmer-than-expected temperatures could speed up the blooming process.
“The developments are dependent on the weather conditions,” Cucurullo cautioned.
Last year, peak bloom was expected starting as early as March 19. However, a mid-March plunge into subfreezing temperatures just days before the forecast peak bloom date destroyed many of the buds.
Over the years, the average peak blooms has occurred right around the beginning of April.
“If it comes early, I think that’s great,” Cucurullo said. “If it comes a little later, then we are really happy for that spring.”
Unless you’re a fan of winter. And if that’s the case, the buds on the branches are suggesting this year may not be for you.
This year’s National Cherry Blossom Festival spans March 20 to April 15.