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Nicolas Raymond // CC BY 2.0
Nicolas Raymond // CC BY 2.0

D.C.’s Cherry Blossoms Will Arrive Extra Early This Year

Nicolas Raymond // CC BY 2.0
Nicolas Raymond // CC BY 2.0

Spring is busting out in Washington, D.C. The city’s beloved cherry trees have already begun to bloom, forcing organizers of the annual Cherry Blossom Festival to start the event one week earlier than planned, ABC News reports.

The National Park Service is currently estimating that peak bloom—that is, the short period when 70 percent of the Yoshino cherry blossoms will be open—will begin around March 14. Last year, peak bloom began on March 25. In the years before that, the blossoms peaked in early April. The Cherry Blossom Festival will begin March 15, rather than March 20, and continue through April 16.

“Cherry tree dates vary from year to year, but the long-term trend shows earlier and earlier blooming,” climate change scientist Patrick Gonzalez said in a video for the National Park Service. Blooms can be forced by unseasonably warm winters, although as the last three years have been the hottest ever recorded, we may soon need to adjust our definition of “unseasonably warm.”

The National Park Service notes that the exact dates of prime pink-petal viewing are “almost impossible” to predict more than 10 days in advance.

The hundreds of cherry trees planted throughout the nation's capital and the Tidal Basin were a gift from Japan to the United States in 1912 and have since become one of D.C.’s most famous tourist attractions. Yet as big as the blossoms are here, they’re even bigger in Japan, where their fragility, loveliness, and oh-so-brief appearance represent the beauty and impermanence of life.

[h/t: ABC News]

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Climate Change Is Making It Hard for Bears to Hibernate Through the Winter
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What was once a rare sight—a bear wandering outside its den before springtime—has become increasingly common, thanks to climate change. As The New York Times reports, warming temperatures are waking American black bears from hibernation earlier than ever, and in some cases, preventing them from settling down for the winter in the first place.

Hibernation is a vital part of the black bear's life cycle. When awake, a bear must consume at least 11 to 18 pounds of food per day to maintain a healthy body weight. Withdrawing for the winter allows it to survive the food scarcity that comes with the colder months.

But as climate change promotes certain extreme weather patterns in the western U.S., the region's black bear population has begun to act differently. Last year the Pine Nut Mountains in Nevada saw unusually high levels of snowfall, and the excess moisture produced an abundant pine nut crop. This past winter, snowfall in the area hit near-record lows, leaving the pine nuts exposed on the ground for a longer period. The prolonged access to food in the area meant some bears started hibernating later or just never got around to it.

Many of the bears that did eventually crawl into their dens were woken up ahead of schedule this year. According to a 2017 study, for every 1°C that minimum winter temperatures rise, bears hibernate six days fewer. In January 2018, temperatures in the Pine Nut Mountains reached 5.4°C above the 20th-century average for the region.

Some years bears emerge from hibernation during droughts, which are exacerbated by climate change, and food is hard to come by. When that's the case, bears may end up on private property, raiding people's trash cans and bird feeders and sometimes breaking into their homes. Fatal bear attacks on humans aren't common: The more likely scenario is that the so-called problem bear will be euthanized. Bear management groups will often try other strategies, like capture and release and aversive conditioning, before resorting to this option. Nonetheless, dozens of bears are euthanized by states each year.

Black bears aren't the only ursine species being forced to adapt to global warming. In the Arctic, polar bears are losing the sea ice they need to hunt marine mammals, and many of them are moving onto land in search of prey. Climate change is pushing both species of bears toward human-populated territory, which means conflicts between the bears and people will only increase from here.

[h/t The New York Times]

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This Is the Most Cited Academic Paper on Wikipedia
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Many would probably be surprised to learn that a paper on climate classification has been referenced 2.8 million times on Wikipedia. The authors of the paper certainly were, as WIRED reported.

According to a recent analysis by The Wikimedia Foundation, which oversees Wikipedia, a paper titled "Updated world map of the Köppen-Geiger climate classification" is by far the most cited source on the site, making its authors something like Wikipedia rock stars. To put that number in perspective, it's slightly less than the number of followers that rapper Cardi B has on Twitter.

While climate classification might not be the sexiest topic, it's incredibly useful across a number of fields, "since climate can affect everything from biology to sociology," as WIRED noted.

Penned by three Australian researchers, the academic paper updates an older version of the Köppen-Geiger climate classification system, which was originally conceived in 1884 by Russian-German climatologist Wladimir Köppen and updated in the 1950s by German climatologist Rudolf Geiger.

The Australian researchers—Brian Finlayson, Thomas McMahon, and Murray Peel—updated the map that accompanies the classification system yet again in 2007. The map's use has been widespread, with Lonely Planet reportedly using it to share general weather information about the various destinations it provides travel guides for.

The Köppen-Geiger climate classification map

Peel, M. C., Finlayson, B. L., and McMahon, T. A., Wikipedia // CC BY-SA 4.0

Finlayson, a retired geography professor from the University of Melbourne, was shocked to learn how frequently their map is referenced. "Those numbers blew me away," Finlayson told WIRED. "None of us had any idea about this. We didn't know Wikipedia collected this information or anything about it."

The Wikimedia Foundation arrived at this figure by analyzing the data of every citation in all of Wikipedia's 297 languages. The only stipulation was that the citations had to be paired with an identifier (for example, "DOI" for a scholarly paper, or "ISBN" for a book edition), but even after narrowing it down, they ended up with nearly 15.7 million records.

All of the top 10 sources by citation are reference books or scientific articles. Trailing far behind the updated Köppen-Geiger map in second place, with 21,350 citations, is some light reading on the "Prediction of Hydrophobic (Lipophilic) Properties of Small Organic Molecules Using Fragment Methods." "Galaxies and How to Observe Them," "A Concise History of Romania," and the California Academy of Sciences' "Catalog of Fishes" also make the top 10.

[h/t WIRED]

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