Spring officially begins tomorrow, but if you were out over the weekend (and who wasn’t?) you were probably stunned by the local flower show. State climatologist Dave Robinson says blossoms are about two weeks ahead of schedule, with forsythia, magnolias and some cherries already blooming. The warmest March on record in New Jersey was in 1945, but “we’re going to be threatening the record,” says Robinson, who adds that this is the 14th consecutive month of above-average temperatures in the state and the warmest 24-month interval on record.
Does it portend an awful summer? Although there’s “no direct connection,” the persistence of the above-average temperatures does suggest the possibility, he says. But Robinson is more worried about a late-spring cold snap with everything in already bloom. When that happened nationally in 2007, he says, it caused $1 billion of crop damage across the country.
Proof of global warming? Not proof, exactly, he says, but more of an “example” of what a warmer climate might be like. “It would be warm of late without humans roaming the earth. But we’re throwing another blanket on the bed.”
This does raise the question of whether the annual Essex County Cherry Blossom Festival, from April 7 to April 22, will actually transpire after the cherries peak in Branch Brook Park. The county’s cherry blossom webcam suggests there’s lots of blooming ahead, but photographer Donald Peterson has already snapped a picture of the park’s first blooms.
“The unseasonably warm weather provided by Mother Nature has encouraged our famous cherry blossoms in Branch Brook Park to bloom earlier than expected,” says county exec Joe DiVincenzo. “It’s always a good time to visit our parks, especially during the bloom season, so I encourage the public to come out, enjoy the outdoors and the beauty of our open spaces, and join us in April when we host our lineup of exciting festival activities.”
Peak bloom time in the nation’s capital, which celebrates its 100th Cherry Blossom Festival this year, is expected to be March 14 to 24.
Kate Hartwyk, director of Cultural and Historical Affairs for Essex County, is expecting Essex County’s cherry blossom peak to be during the first week of April — 10 to 14 days ahead of schedule. She says it’s possible that by April 22, which is the date of the park’s Bloomfest, only one cherry varietal, the double blossoms, will be left on the trees. “I’m a little concerned about 80 degree days,” she said, pointing out that the nights aren’t cooling down — so blossoms are growing day and night.
Luckily, there are several big events — a one-mile children’s race and a picnic — planned for Saturday April 14, and a 10K planned for Sunday April 15, when more blossoms should still be clinging to their trees.