Here’s an unnerving thing to think about when you go out and enjoy the unseasonably warm and sunny weather today: About 2 PM Wednesday, the temperature in Washington hit 80 degrees at the earliest point in any year since modern weather readings were first recorded in 1872.
The National Weather Service recorded the temperature at Washington Reagan National Airport at 81 degrees this afternoon, breaking the previous daily record for February 21 of 75 degrees, which was set in 1953. It’s also the second consecutive day on which DC broke a heat record; Tuesday’s high of 78 broke the previous mark for February 20, set in 1930.
While temperatures are expected to dip back down into the 60s and 50s later this week, the past few days’ balminess has been enough for restaurants to deploy their sidewalk cafés and allow street-corner activists to solicit signatures for their causes while wearing sleeveless vests instead of heavy parkas. The ranks of joggers have swelled to rival the running clusters typical of a late spring evening.
But the unusually warm weather also brings more unsettling sights, like plants blooming prematurely. And while you’re unlikely to see cherry blossoms this week, sustained exposure to unseasonably high temperatures could move up their bloom date. Similarly wild weather swings last year threw the expected bloom date of DC’s famed Yoshino cherry trees into chaos when another stretch of 70-degree days in late February was followed by a brutal cold snap in mid-March that snuffed out much of last year’s crop. (The surviving blossoms hit their peak bloom on March 25, a bit earlier than usual.)
Right now, though, the National Park Service isn’t making any predictions how this week’s weather will affect this year’s cherry-blossom bloom, mostly because it’s still too early. But there’s certainly a chance the last two days have influenced things.
“Prolonged temperatures in the upper 70s would certainly cause the peak bloom date to shift by a couple of days,” says NPS spokesman Mike Litterst. “We’re keeping an eye on everything, and will make the peak bloom projection next Thursday.”
In the mean time, get some ice cream and think about whether you should really revel in this warmth.