The Washington Post‘s Capital Weather Gang today issued their prediction for when the cherry blossoms will reach peak bloom in 2016.
They predict that it will fall sometime during the period March 24 to March 28.
That’s much earlier than the average, and it’s also about a week earlier than the prediction issued by the National Park Service horticulturalists last week. The current NPS forecast is for peak bloom to fall sometime during the period March 31 to April 3.
But the Capital Weather Gang says that temperatures through March now look as though they’ll be even warmer than expected and that that will drive an even earlier bloom.
You can find more detail about their calculations here.
How Accurate Are These Forecasts?
The National Park Service issued its forecast last week, predicting that peak bloom will fall sometime between March 31 and April 3. There’s no overlap here, so both can’t be right.
It is not at all unusual for the forecasts to be revised as we get closer to the date, and you can keep up with the latest forecasts here.
What If I Miss Peak Bloom?
“Peak bloom” is a technical determination of when 70 percent of the flowers are blooming. It’s a single day, and we won’t know which exact day it falls on until it happens.
When the Capital Weather Gang says that they expect peak bloom to fall between March 24 and March 28, it means they expect the day that that 70 percent threshold is reached to fall within that period. It does not necessarily mean they’ll be in full bloom for the duration of that entire period (although they might be). If the peak bloom date ends up falling on March 24, for example, the flowers will be on their way out by March 28 or so. If the peak bloom date falls in the middle of that range, the trees will be in what we might consider full bloom for that entire period.
But you don’t have to be there on the precise peak bloom date to see a beautiful sight. For at least two days before and at least two days after (and often longer both before and after) you can expect to see the trees in full bloom. And there can be plenty of flowers to see for several days extended well beyond that. But most of the flowers will likely be gone by about a week or so after the peak bloom date.
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 Peak Bloom Forecasts?
The big one is the one by the National Park Service. Their current prediction is March 31 to April 3. You can keep track of the latest updates on the peak bloom updates page.
Want to Help Support DC's Cherry Trees?
If you'd like to help support the care and upkeep of the cherry trees around the Tidal Basin, the Trust for The National Mall has launched an Endow a Cherry Tree Campaign. Donations go to the official Cherry Tree Endowment, which will give the National Park Service additional resources to fund the care, maintenance, and possible replacement of the cherry trees. You can find more information here.
The Trust is dedicated to marshaling private support for maintaining and improving the history National Mall area. I'm not affiliated with the Trust--just an admirer of their efforts.