No. Most of the trees haven’t yet reached the green buds stage, so they still have quite a way to go before blooming.
The winter has been consistently warmer than average. With hardly any snow and very few cold snaps, it’s shaping up to be the third-warmest winter on record. And we’re closing out February with a long string of days in the 60s and 70s, which is well above normal for this time of year.
The so-called indicator tree, which is consistently about a week to ten days ahead of the others, is showing green buds (you can see recent photos here). Most of the trees aren’t yet in the green buds stage.
So early indications thus far suggest that we’ll see an early bloom in 2017. As of now, odds are looking good for a mid- to late-March peak bloom.
But, as always, it’s highly dependent on the weather. Right now, the long-range forecasts peering into March suggest a cooler month, much closer to normal temperatures for this time of year, and perhaps even a bit under normal. If that happens, it will slow things down.
The National Park Service hasn’t yet issued their peak bloom forecast for 2017. They typically put out their first prediction for the season in early March. The Washington Post‘s Capital Weather Gang has said they’ll post an initial prediction later this week. I’ll update this page when they do.
How to Get Updates
Now that we’re getting closer, I’ll be posting updates more regularly. You can find them here and various methods for receiving the updates are below. I keep this page updated with the latest information on 2017 peak bloom forecasts—none has been issued yet.
If you’d like to get notifications when updates are posted, there are now several different options.
– Facebook. Follow the Cherry Blossom Watch Facebook page
– Browser Notifications. On desktop web browsers you can click on the red bell icon at the bottom right of the screen to sign up for push notifications. When new updates are posted you’ll get a notification automatically right in your browser. Chrome, Safari, and Firefox only, for now.
– RSS. RSS feed
Current Peak Bloom Forecasts for 2017
The National Park Service hasn’t yet issued their first peak bloom forecast for the season. Nor has the Washington Post‘s Capital Weather Gang. Both typically issue them around early March. This page will be stay updated with the latest forecasts.
For now, the best we can say with confidence is that they will almost certainly flower sometime in the spring (yes, it’s technically possible that they won’t flower in an extreme weather situation, but it has never happened yet, and yes, there are some cherry blossoms that flower in the fall and winter) and that it will most likely happen sometime between mid-March and mid-April. When they flower, there are typically plenty of blossoms to see for at least 5 to 8 days, often longer.
In general, they tend to bloom sometime between mid-March and mid-April, with the dates more commonly clustered in the period of the last few days of March through the first few days of April. But there can be quite a bit of variation year to year. In 2016 they bloomed about a fortnight before the 2015 dates, and if you based your visit on the 2015 dates you would have missed the show.
The bloom schedule depends heavily on what kind of winter and early spring we have. A long, cold winter pushes the bloom date back. A warmer, shorter winter brings it forward. The temperatures in February and March tend to matter more than those of December and January.
I realize that uncertainty makes travel planning hard. So if you’d like much more information to base your own guesstimate on, I’ve put together some detailed information here.
If you’re inclined to put stock in long-range weather forecasts, here are some early long-range forecasts for this winter. The gist: “The ever-cautious National Weather Service . . . predicts equal chances of a cold or mild winter in the D.C. area. But some bolder forecasters in the private sector say there is a strong signal it will be severe.” Take it with a healthy dose of salt. A few weeks after that prediction, some local forecasters predicted a cold, snowy winter.
More recently, the Washington Post‘s Capital Weather Gang has predicted that the coming winter will be colder than last year but with less snow. To put that in context, we had a lot of snow last year, thanks in part to a January blizzard, but overall temperatures were warmer than normal. That brought an early peak bloom of March 25. Their forecast for this year is for temperatures slightly above normal, with the possibility of a colder-than-usual January but a mild February and early end to winter. If that pans out, it suggests a peak bloom slightly earlier than the average. That said, long-range weather forecasts like these are notoriously difficult, and it’s quite possible things pan out differently.
Average Temperatures So Far / Winter 2016-17
In trying to estimate when the cherry blossoms might bloom, what to look for, in particular, is how the winter shapes up–whether it’s colder or warmer than the average. Temperatures through the winter and into the spring play a very large part in determining the cherry blossoms’ schedule. Colder-than-average temperatures tend to push the bloom later, while warmer-than-average temperatures bring it forward. Temperatures in February and March tend to matter more than December and January.
For an idea of how we’re tracking so far during the winter and heading into the spring, here’s how the monthly averages so far compare with historical normals1:
- February (so far): 7.1° above normal
- January: 6.1° above normal
- December: 2.1° above normal
- November: 3.0° above normal
For comparison, here are how much the monthly averages varied from the historical average for that month broken down by the months leading up to that year’s bloom.
|December||January||February||March||Peak Bloom Date|
ˤ = partial month, in progress
* = up until peak bloom
Cherry Blossom Timelapse
While we’re waiting, here’s a timelapse I made this year of Yoshino cherry blossoms blooming.
Are DC’s Cherry Blossoms Blooming?
No, they’re not yet blooming in 2017.
How Accurate Are Peak Bloom Forecasts?
The NPS horticulturalists are the first to point out that they’re not really confident in their prediction until about 10 days out. There are so many variables that can come into play, especially since the prediction is based on long-range weather forecasts a month or more out.
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.
What If I Miss Peak Bloom?
You don’t have to be there on the precise peak bloom date to see the flowers. For at least two days before and at least two days after (and often longer in each direction) you can expect to see the trees in what one would consider full bloom. And there are flowers to see before and after that. Here are some photos of what I mean.
“Peak bloom” is a technical determination of when 70 percent of the flowers are determined to be out. And it’s a single day. But there are still beautiful flowers to see in the days before and after that. I have two posts that explain it in more detail and provide photos of what to expect in the days before and after the peak bloom date.
Are There Any Other Forecasts?
The two to watch are the forecasts by the National Park Service and the Washington Post‘s Capital Weather Gang. Typically, the National Park Service one is put out first, followed by the Capital Weather Gang’s about a week later.
From time to time there are some other ones issued that are worth noting. I keep this page updated with the latest forecasts.
I realize all this uncertainty isn’t much good if you’re trying to plan ahead with your own travel to Washington to visit the cherry blossoms, so I’ve put together some information to help you make your own educated guess.
If you’re planning a visit, I’ve put together some ideas on where to stay if you’re looking for hotels in Washington DC and how to get to the cherry blossoms once you’re here:
- When is the Best Time to See the Cherry Blossoms
- Where to Stay
- How to Get there
- What Peak Bloom and Why It (Sort of) Matters
2017 National Cherry Blossom Festival
The 2017 National Cherry Blossom Festival® will kick off on Monday, March 20, and run through Sunday, April 16.
The festival is run by the National Cherry Blossom Festival, Inc., a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization and features a number of events, exhibits, and performances related to the cherry blossoms and U.S.-Japanese relations. Among the events and activities are a parade, fireworks, concerts, and special exhibits that take their theme from the cherry blossoms. You can find more information at the National Cherry Blossom Festival’s official website.
The National Cherry Blossom Festival is typically scheduled around the average peak bloom date. The hope is that the blossoms will come out at some point during the festival, but there’s no guarantee of that and it’s unlikely they’ll be out for the duration. In 2014 and 2015 the peak bloom fell right at the end of the festival. In 2016, with the early bloom, it fell right at the beginning of the festival. In recent years the festival has been extended to run across several weeks, which increases the chances that the peak bloom will fall within the festival dates.
2017 Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run
The Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run is scheduled for the morning of April 2, 2017. The event brings with it significant road closures. The Tidal Basin remains open, but getting to it can be trickier than normal.