Cherry blossom trees bloom early in Japan, recent typhoons may be to blame

By Carolyn Sistrand, AccuWeather staff writer
October 22, 2018, 12:09:59 PM EDT

Cherry blossom trees are blooming several seasons earlier than normal in Japan.

Blooming of the Japanese national tree is typical in the springtime. However, NHK, Japan’s national public broadcasting organization, has received 354 reports of blooming cherry blossom trees from western Japan to the northernmost part of the country, as of Oct. 14.

“Part of the problem is that the leaves on the cherry trees emit a hormone that keeps them from blossoming and the typhoons ripped many of those leaves off,” said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jason Nicholls. “Because of that the tree thought it was early spring.”

japan cherry blossom

A cherry blossom blooms in the autumn season along Meguro River in Tokyo, Japan, October 18, 2018. (Photo/REUTERS/Kwiyeon Ha)

Japan has experienced seven typhoons this season. The last time the country has had this many storms was in 2004, with a record of 10 typhoons during the peak season.

Heavy rainfall and extreme winds may be to blame for the early blossoming of the cherry blossoms.

Tree surgeon Hiroyuki Wada told NHK that the increased temperatures following the storms “most likely” triggered the blooming of the tree’s buds.

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Nicholls said that Japan typically ranges in temperatures in the low to mid-60s this time of year.

“After the typhoons came through it was unseasonably warm,” said Nicholls. “The area is running 3 to 4 degrees above normal.”

The cause of the near-record typhoon season could be due to an El Niño pattern shift the Pacific is experiencing said Nicholls.

An El Niño is part of a routine climate pattern that occurs when sea-surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean rise to above-normal levels for an extended period of time.

Although El Niño could have been a major player in bringing storms to Japan, it may not be the case next year.

“What usually happens with El Niño is it shifts the development area more east,” said Nicholls. “By next season it would shift, it would be more neutral and El Niño would be fading by this point. This year the winds favored more storms going into Japan, and going into next season the winds may not be there”.

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