The prediction of the flowering of the cherry trees, a challenge for meteorologists

The prediction of the flowering of the cherry trees, a challenge for meteorologists

The arrival of spring in Japan is accompanied by the flowering of the cherry trees or "sakura", a true time of worship for the Japanese that urges meteorologists to accurately predict the appearance of these ephemeral flowers.

"The period of the 'sakura' will arrive soon, so lately we have to examine the buds of the cherry blossoms every day," tells Efe Yukiko Tezuka, a member of the group of scientists that elaborates these forecasts from the Japan Weather Association ( JWA).

It is a period awaited both by the Japanese and the thousands of tourists who plan their holidays in the country around this phenomenon of nature that dyes streets and parks of pale pink and white.

The influence of these small flowers in the Japanese lifestyle is undoubted, and weeks before its flowering the "sakura" is already represented in various ways in gastronomy, art, culture and leisure.

The birth of cherry blossoms haunts not only the population, but also meteorologists from all over the country such as Tezuka, who dedicate months to elaborate a rigorous forecast of the opening of the first cocoons.

According to the JWA, the outbreaks of "sakura" begin to form in summer, after which they enter a period of lethargy and end up waking up when exposed to the low temperatures of winter.

After awakening from its dormant time, the buds grow and bloom as temperatures rise, and the higher they are the earlier the flowering results.

The most predominant variety of these trees is the "somei yoshino", whose pink flower of five petals with a whitish hue has become a symbol of the country.

The appearance of its striking flowers at the end of March and the beginning of April brings with it a few weeks of celebration for the Japanese, who flock to parks all over the country to celebrate the famous "hanami", the Japanese tradition of observing beauty of spring.

To predict this phenomenon as accurately as possible, meteorologists must take into account data from previous years and prepare short-term forecasts, daily and weekly, as well as long-term, monthly or quarterly.

It is also important to observe in situ the cocoons made by meteorologists from several locations. "From the JWA we examined 92 places throughout Japan," says Tezuka.

Traditionally, it was the eye of meteorologists, with years of experience behind them, who decided the flowering time of these trees.

However, today most companies that are dedicated to this science use artificial intelligence to complement human prediction.

"What we do first is to calculate the flowering time with a computer, we have a program that makes forecasts, then the meteorologists make a second assessment, finally, with this data we decide the final prediction," the meteorologist explains.

The science of "sakura" is very susceptible to inclement weather, and weather patterns can cause sudden changes in their time of arrival, but the trend of recent years is that it is getting faster and faster, possibly "because of the climate change, "says Tezuka.

The flowering weeks coincide with the days when the children start school, the university and school students graduate and the young people begin their first job.

"There are several events around the 'sakura'", explains the meteorologist, who adds: "Therefore, these flowers are so important for the Japanese."

After the height of flowering, it will hardly be a week before the petals fall completely and leave the cherry trees bare of their characteristic pink.

And although this emblematic flower of Japan symbolizes the fragility of life, it will accompany thousands of Nipponese who begin a new stage in their lives.

Nora Olivé


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