The warning of ‘cherry blossoms’, a sign of speeding up spring

A wave of spring flowers all over the country. Thanks to the feast of spring flowers, this spring feels like it has come quite quickly.

Last Saturday (25th), the impatient cherry blossoms officially bloomed in Seoul.

The cherry blossoms bloomed 10 days earlier than last year (April 4) and 14 days earlier than usual (April 8). It bloomed just one day later than 2021 (March 24), which was the fastest ever, and is the second fastest on record.

However, the early spring flowers are not as nice as they seem. This is because an eerie warning lurks behind the beauty of early spring flowers.

■ Cherry blossom season ‘Busan→Seoul’ as fast as KTX

Another spring, cherry blossoms. How quickly did it bloom this spring?

According to data from the Korea Meteorological Administration, compared to previous normal years (1981 to 2010), the blooming time of cherry blossoms in recent normal years (1991 to 2020) has increased by one day.

The problem is northbound speed.

The official cherry blossom date in Busan this year is March 19th. It was 9 days earlier than usual (March 28), the fastest record in 102 years of observation. And six days later, cherry blossoms bloomed in Seoul as well.

Normally, cherry blossoms in Seoul bloom only after about 11 days after cherry blossoms bloom in Busan, but the period towards the north is reduced by about half. This is about twice as fast as in normal years.

Difference between cherry blossom blooming dates in Seoul and Busan from 1922 to 2023 (Source: Korea Meteorological Administration)Difference between cherry blossom blooming dates in Seoul and Busan from 1922 to 2023 (Source: Korea Meteorological Administration)

The fact that the speed of spring flowers has increased towards the north is clearer when you look at the graph above.

100 years ago, even in the 1920s, the average difference between cherry blossoms blooming in Seoul and Busan was 15.5 days. However, if you look at the average of the last 10 years (2013-2022), it is about 6 days, and in 2021, when the cherry blossoms bloomed the fastest ever, you can see that there is only a difference of two days.

What is the reason why spring flowers bloom earlier and the differences between regions decrease?

■ Reasons for the birth of ‘impatient’ cherry blossoms

The main reasons for continuing to make cherry blossoms impatient are ‘high temperatures’ and ‘long hours of sunshine’.

In fact, looking at the temperature and sunshine hours before the cherry blossoms bloomed this year, the national average temperature in February and March was around 1.3 degrees Celsius and 3.6 degrees above normal, respectively that. Daylight hours, when sunlight reaches the ground in clear weather, were also around 30 hours longer over the two months.

But here’s the problem.

“When global warming is progressing rapidly due to urbanization and climate change, the speed at which each can survive varies. The fact that flowering times are similar across the country is a risk that the relationship between flowers and insects that has been maintained for thousands or perhaps tens of thousands of years will eventually be broken. It is what it is.”– From an interview with Jeong Jong-guk, Professor of Forest Science, Kangwon National University

The temperature of the ground rises more slowly than the temperature above the ground. Because of this, in the case of insects that survive the winter in the ground, they will sense that it warms up more slowly outside. In this way, the insects can go up to the ground and start their activities only after the flowers are in full bloom. Scholars say it is difficult to ‘co-evolve’ this.

Co-evolution means that two different organisms influence each other and evolve together. For example, ‘Cherry Blossom’ and ‘Insects’ students always went to school together, but at some point, Cherry Blossom went to school alone early, so we they could meet insects.

In fact, plants and insects are inextricably linked. Insects must transfer pollen to plants to produce flowers. However, if the timing is not right and there is an obstacle in this process, it can ultimately lead to a species conservation problem.

■ The ‘butterfly effect’ of early blooming cherry blossoms

There are other problems besides the co-evolution of flowers and insects.

Early flowering means a longer growing season. Because of this, it has been argued in the past that as the growth period of plants increases, it can absorb more carbon and be a factor in mitigating global warming.

However, this argument has recently lost its force. It has been analyzed that early growth is more susceptible to various damages such as cold damage, so plant productivity decreases, which in turn hinders biological growth.

“It absorbs carbon well and grows well in the summer when the temperature is right and the rain is moderate.
But it is not like that now. Rainfall has decreased and temperatures have risen sharply, leading to a drought-like pattern. This puts plants under more stress, which in turn affects biological growth and reduces their ability to absorb carbon.”

-Interview with Jeong Soo-jong, professor at Graduate School of Environmental Studies, Seoul National University

Here, it was said that the early flowering of flowers quickly uses up water in the ground and makes the ground drier, which also reduces the productivity of the plant itself. In other words, plants have leaves in the summer, but photosynthesis is not working properly, so carbon absorption is reduced.

In the end, the early flowering of flowers causes problems in plant growth, and the weakening of plant growth again increases global warming by failing to absorb carbon. This global warming in turn encourages faster flowering of flowers.

■ ‘Warning’ from ‘Herald of Spring’

Experts emphasize that we should not give up on ‘quick blooming flowers’. It means that you have to see the warning hidden behind the phenomenon.

The vicious cycle of warming starts warming repeats itself. Warming draws flowers to bloom, which in turn changes the carbon and water cycles. It is not just a problem of insects, but the possibility of changing the map of the animal ecosystem has increased. After all, the formula “premature flowering = ecosystem threat” falls into place.

Perhaps these beautiful cherry blossoms that came quickly could be a great danger sign for the ecosystem. This is why these spring flowers and embroidery the whole country is not completely happy.

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