A historical perspective on mid-March warmth and cherry blossom peak bloom.
It feels more like mid-May than mid-March as temperatures this week are running well above average, but forecasted high temperatures are still far from record breaking, so do you think this warm spell is that impressive? Regardless, this warmth should accelerate the blooming of D.C.’s famous cherry blossom trees, which will impress tourists and locals alike.
The average high at Reagan National Airport (DCA) rises from 55° today to 57° on Sunday. Our actual afternoon highs should be running about 20° above average in the mid to upper 70s this week. Also, preliminary indications point toward a good chance of 70°+ weather into next week as well.
Unseasonably warm March temperatures are here for now, but we have seen similar and even warmer weather patterns during the same time period in the past. In turn, record breaking highs look unattainable through the foreseeable future. Actually, of the seven record highs from today through Sunday, six occurred in either 1990 or 1945 when even warmer conditions prevailed for several days, and by more than just a few degrees. Here’s a rundown of the forecast highs compared to records:
During the record breaking warmth in 1990, the cherry blossom trees around the Tidal Basin had their earliest peak bloom ever occuring on March 15th, according to the National Park Service. The similar and record breaking warmth in 1945 contributed to a peak bloom on March 20th.
As for this year, peak bloom was originally expected between March 24th and March 31st, but that was before our recent & prolonged warming trend took was in sight. That forecast will likely be updated soon and adjusted to an earlier peak bloom date by possibly three to seven days. We’ll standby and wait for the National Park Service’s Chief Horticulturalist, Rob DeFeo, to update his prediction here. Interestingly, over the past six years the peak bloom has occurred within the same four day period (March 29th – April 1st). Average peak bloom is April 4th.
Usually in the spring at DCA it takes high temperatures about 30° above average to compete with a record, so I normally wouldn't think 70s in March was that impressive. 80s in March is what impresses me the most. However, due to the prolonged nature of this warm spell, I do think it's a rather impressive warm spell as temperatures usually bounce up and down all March and rarely peak for very long. Though beware that March warmth doesn’t necessarily translate to April warmth too. Don’t pack away the longs sleeves just yet.