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What will be the best day for cherry blossoms in Vancouver this year? Experts aim to pinpoint a date

Peak cherry blossom days can be connected to climate change.
Scientists are holding a global contest to figure out the best date to go see cherry blossoms in Vancouver.

Each year thousands of people explore Vancouver looking for the perfect cherry blossom setting.

While there's a map that tells you where all the trees are, choosing the best day to go looking isn't as clear.

A UBC professor is part of a global contest using citizen scientists to find the perfect day to go out to the trees and says each year it's getting a little earlier.

"The cherry blossom season, on average, has begun earlier and earlier over the past four decades, with some plants or locations having advanced two or three
weeks," says Dr. Elizabeth Wolkovich in a press release.

That's due to climate change, she notes.

Cherry blossoms are a sign of the start of spring around the world, Wolkovich adds, and the winter weather can affect the amount of blossoms. Given Vancouver's warm weather this year, it may affect when and how many flowers local trees produce.

"We know that peaches, for example, will fail to flower without enough cold but our models are not well tested beyond a few locations for a few species, which is why this competition is so important," says Wolkovich.

"In addition, how early these cherry blossoms start is indicative of how lots of other early trees leaf out. That in turn determines how much carbon our forests take up, and so ultimately this could inform and improve predictions of climate change."

Past peak cherry blossom dates

Now in its third year, the contest is accepting predictions until Feb. 29, more than a month ahead of the blooming cheery blossoms. While predictions haven't been placed for 2024, the results of the past two years shed some light on Vancouver.

In the first year of the contest, the average predicted peak bloom date for Vancouver was April 2. In 2023, the consensus was April 5, but when measured it was actually April 7, according to the UBC Botanical Gardens.

Participating in the contest

Anyone in the world can participate in the 2024 contest, though they have to build predictive models for five cherry blossom prolific global locations: Vancouver, Washington D.C., New York City, Kyoto, and Liestal-Weideli in Switzerland.

Predictions need to be submitted to the International Cherry Blossom Prediction Competition by Feb. 29. The contest's website has information on how to get started with creating a model for the predictions (it's a little more advanced than picking days on a calendar). Winners receive $5,000.