The National Park Service has issued their initial peak bloom prediction for the 2019 bloom.
It seems increasingly likely that DC will still be under COVID-19 restrictions in spring 2021 while the cherry blossoms are blooming. So it's shaping up to be a good year to follow along from afar from the safety and comfort of your home.
The horticulturists at the National Park Service issued their initial peak bloom prediction for 2019 at a news conference at the Newseum this morning. They predict that peak bloom will fall sometime between April 3 and 6.
The Washington Post‘s Capital Weather Gang issued their own prediction yesterday. They predict that peak bloom will fall sometime between April 1 and 5.
These are roughly in line with the historical average, or perhaps slightly on the later side of it ends up being on the later end of those ranges. Last year, the peak bloom fell on April 5. The buds are currently a bit behind where they were at this date last year, and we’re currently in a cold spell that is slowing things down further. But the current weather forecasts through the rest of March point to warmer temperatures to bring things back up to speed.
You can see how it’s looking down at the Tidal Basin in some photos taken earlier this morning in today’s update.
The peak bloom date is the day on which the NPS cherry tree crew judge that 70 percent of the Yoshino blossoms are out.
It’s a specific day that the threshold is passed. So when a forecast expects peak bloom between such and such dates, it means that they expect the 70 percent threshold to be crossed at some point during that range.
It does not mean that the flowers will be at peak bloom for that entire date range. It also does not mean that you have to be there only on that specific day to catch the spectacle. More on that below.
The experts at the National Park Service, some of whom have been tending the cherry trees for decades, and in some cases multi-generationally, are the first to point out that they’re not really confident in their prediction until about 10 days out. There are just too many variables that can come into play, especially since the prediction is based so heavily on the crystal ball of long-range weather forecasts.
Sometimes, the predictions nail it. Other times, Mother Nature has other plans, and it’s not at all unusual for the forecasts to be revised as we get closer to the date as the actual weather conditions diverge from the long-range weather forecast they initially relied on.
So the peak bloom forecasts are the best information we have to go on, but that doesn’t mean things always pan out as expected. So be sure to keep checking in for any updates. I keep the peak bloom forecasts page up to date with the latest information.
The two best peak bloom predictions are the ones issued by the National Park Service and the Washington Post‘s Capital Weather Gang. Both have a good track record, even if they’re not perfect every time.
From time to time there are some other ones issued that are worth noting, and I add those to the peak bloom predictions page.
The day the cherry blossoms reach peak bloom is not, of course, the only day one can see the flowers. At minimum, you can expect a beautiful sight for at least a few days before the peak bloom date and at least a few days after. Sometimes they can be out for a couple of weeks.
It’s impossible to predict exactly how long and how long after the peak bloom dates the flowers will be out, because it depends on the immediate weather conditions. In ideal conditions (cool, dry, calm), there can still be flowers to see a week or even two after the peak bloom date. In less-than-ideal conditions (wet, windy, hot, stormy), the flowers disappear more quickly. I’ve put together a timeline with photos from previous years to give an idea of what you can expect to see during the different stages of the bloom. And if you’d like to find out more about what peak bloom means I have a post on that.
The crucial point is that you don’t have to be there precisely on that specific day to be greeted with a beautiful sight. There are still flowers to see in the days before and after that.
And if you’re too late for the Yoshino peak bloom by two or three weeks, you might in luck for a different variety that is also very pretty: the Kwanzan cherry blossoms. Tulips are another spring highlight around the area.
Last updated March 6, 2019