This is another blatant example of the media spreading misinformation to foment a climate crisis to an unsuspecting public.
On March 29th, the Guardian ranted, “Climate crisis 'likely cause' of early cherry blossom in Japan”. Washington Post blasted “Japan’s Kyoto cherry blossoms peak on earliest date in 1200 years, a sign of climate change.” The BBC proclaimed cherry blossoms “in the city of Kyoto peaked on 26 March, according to data collected by Osaka University. Increasingly early flowerings in recent decades are likely to be a result of climate change, scientists say.” Similar stories suggesting evidence of climate crisis were repeated by virtually all the media outlets.
This year’s bloom was indeed very early, that much is true. But how does published science compare to media narratives that suggest crisis after crisis to attract readers and profit. First consider the previous record was set during the Little Ice Age, when peak flowering in Kyoto happened on March 27, 1409. More importantly, urbanization is known to cause earlier bloom times. So observing the earliest peak blooming date is just 1 day earlier after 600 years, certainly doesn’t suggest a climate crisis.
In the 2009 peer-reviewed research paper “The impact of climate change on cherry trees and other species in Japan”, scientists compared peak blooming date in cities compared to dates in nearby rural areas to estimate the urban heat effect. Researchers determined, “At locations near Kyoto, Osaka, and Tokyo, urban, suburban, and rural locations had similar times of cherry blossom festivals in the 1950s. The similarity indicates that urban, suburban and rural areas had essentially the same temperatures in the spring. However, over next 50 years, flowering times in urban, suburban, and rural sites at each of these cities gradually began to diverge, with urban areas flowering earlier than nearby rural and suburban areas. By the 1980s, the warmer temperatures in the city had shifted the flowering of cherry trees 8 days earlier in central Tokyo in comparison with nearby rural areas, and 4–5 days earlier in central Kyoto and Osaka than nearby rural areas.”
Osaka is just 34 miles from Kyoto. A detailed study in 1989 from 80 locations around Osaka City “determined the first flowering was recorded starting on March 19 at locations in the city center Flowering was recorded at successively later dates at distances farther from the city center. At around 7 km from the city center, plants were starting to flower as much as 8 days later than in the city center.” Peak flowering happens about 1 week after first flowering, so that would make Osaka’s peak flowering date March 26, 1989, the exact same as Kyoto in 2021.
Finally consider the science presented by NOAA’s Thomas Karl in his 1988 publication Urbanization: Its Detection and Effect on the United States Climate Record. After controlling for other factors, NOAA scientists determined to what degree a larger population affected the average temperature. Tokyo’s population is 13.5 million, Osaka’s population is 2.7 million and Kyoto’s population is about 1.5 million. According to Karl that would increase Kyoto’s average temperature by about 1.8F (1C), and Tokyo’s by 4.6F (2.6C), relative to natural habitat or rural areas. That’s the same or more than is attributed to the increased global average from rising CO2. Make no mistake about it, the media is inciting climate alarm where there is none, and they imply their false narratives really represent “good science”. Beware. Like the range of peak cherry blossom flowering dates, the wisdom shared in an 1849 Edgar Ala Poe short story also remains unchanged. “Believe nothing you hear, and only one half that you see.”
March 30, 2021