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Tech & Science The art and science of Japan's cherry blossom forecast

14:06  11 february  2019
14:06  11 february  2019 Source:   msn.com

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The Japanese cherry blossom , or sakura, has long been adored by people across the globe. It is regarded as a symbol of renewal, vitality, and beauty. During the spring season of each year, thousands travel to Japan to view the wondrous spectacle of these white or pink flowers blooming en masse.

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The art and science of Japan's cherry blossom forecast© Provided by AFP As spring approaches in Japan, the country's weather forecasters face one of their biggest missions of the year: predicting exactly when the famed cherry blossoms will bloom

As spring approaches in Japan, the country's weather forecasters face one of their biggest missions of the year: predicting exactly when the famed cherry blossoms will bloom.

Japan's sakura or cherry blossom season is feverishly anticipated by locals and visitors alike. Many tourists plan their entire trips around the blooms, and Japanese flock to parks in their millions to enjoy the seasonal spectacle.

"People pay more attention to the cherry blossom season than any other flower in Japan," Ryo Dojo, an official of the statistics unit at the Japan Meteorological Agency, told AFP.

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According to its forecast , cherry blossoms are expected to open on March 23 in Tokyo, March 26 in Kyoto and Osaka, March 25 in Nagoya, and April 29 in Sapporo. The map shown below indicates how the cherry blossom viewing season (Hanami) of Japan for 2019 goes upward (Hokkaido) from the

Japan ’ s iconic cherry blossom blooms draw in travellers from all around the world each spring. The forecast helps gives travellers a sense of when they might catch one of Japan ’ s most stunning natural displays. But, since nature is anything but predictable, checking the forecast often can help make

The most basic element of predicting when the delicate pink and white petals will begin to unfurl is a large data set of temperatures.

That's because the flowers will come earlier if temperatures rise quickly in spring, Dojo said.

Conversely, if temperatures in the autumn and winter period are higher than usual, the blooms can end up being delayed.

Extreme weather can affect the trees too, with unusual patterns in 2018 prompting some blossoms to appear in October, well before the usual season.

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The art and science of Japan's cherry blossom forecast© Provided by AFP Japan's sakura or cherry blossom season is feverishly anticipated by locals and visitors alike. Many tourists plan their entire trips around the blooms, and Japanese flock to parks in their millions to enjoy the seasonal spectacle

In general, blooms begin as early as March in southern Kyushu and appear as late as May in northernmost Hokkaido.

In a bid to improve its forecasts, some outfits have started crowdsourcing data, including Weathernews, a firm in Chiba near Tokyo.

It relies on photos of buds sent in regularly by 10,000 citizens across the country who are registered on the company's website and app.

"Cherry blossom forecasting is impossible for us without this system," spokeswoman Miku Toma said.

Two million reports

The company launched what they call the "sakura project" in 2004, signing up members who choose their own cherry tree and send pictures of its buds to the firm at regular intervals.

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A forecast of the cherry blossom blooming season in Japan for 2019. According to the forecast , the cherry blossoms are expected to generally open a little earlier than average this year. In Tokyo, they are predicted to open on March 22 and in Kyoto on March 24.

Looking for the 2019 Japan cherry blossom forecast ? The new map will be ready soon—in the meantime, you can take a look at Bonus: See our post on Japan ’ s Number 1 Cherry Blossom spot. Please remember that this is a forecast ! Individual trees, different sub regions and the weather (wind

"We realised we could see the details of how buds grow thanks to the pictures sent to us," Toma said.

"So we decided to incorporate the project to help predict blossoms."

Just observing the bud can give surprisingly accurate information about how far the flower is from full bloom.

A sakura bud still a month from blossoming will be small and firm, but after 10 days, the tip turns slightly yellow-green, and then a darker green part emerges.

The art and science of Japan's cherry blossom forecast© Provided by AFP During cherry blossom season in Japan shops will pack their shelves with sakura themed merchandise

When the tip of the bud turns a faint pink, it's just a week until bloom-time.

Thanks to the project, Weathernews has accumulated data from two million reports on cherry flower buds in the past 15 years, which it uses to increase the accuracy of its forecasting.

It also incorporates weather data collected from its own observation devices across Japan -- 13,000 locations in total, 10 times more than the official weather agency has.

Weathernews employees also call around 700 parks regularly to check the growth of cherry flower buds.

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The final hurrah of Japan ’ s cherry blossom celebrations can be found in Hokkaido, the northernmost island (from April 30 this year, according to forecasts ). Cherry Blossoms by James T Ulak and Howard S Kaplan – an illustrated hardback book devoted to cherry blossoms in Japanese art and

The sakura flower, or Japanese cherry blossom , is considered Japan ' s unofficial national flower and has been admired by people all across the globe for it undeniable beauty. They are so popular among tourists that thousands travel to Japan every year during the spring season to get a glimpse of the

The company and other forecasters also employ mathematical models and algorithms.

Otenki Japan, a forecaster run by a subsidiary of precision-equipment manufacturer Shimadzu, even began using artificial intelligence to predict cherry blossoms in 2018.

Blooms on beer

The forecasts are not only for flower fans, but reflect the fact that sakura season is big business in Japan.

Cherry blossoms symbolise the fragility of life in Japanese culture as full blooms only last about a week before the petals start falling off trees.

And in that period and the preceding weeks, shops will pack their shelves with sakura themed merchandise. Pink and white blossoms seem to decorate everything from beer cans to sakura-flavoured chips and flower-themed candy.

The art and science of Japan's cherry blossom forecast© Provided by AFP Extreme weather can affect Japan's cherry blossom trees too, with unusual patterns in 2018 prompting some blossoms to appear in October, well before the usual season

The season is traditionally celebrated with hanami, or viewing parties, in cherry blossom hotspots, with picnics organised beneath the trees.

The season is also considered one of change, as it marks the start of the new business year, with many university graduates starting their first full-time jobs and older colleagues shifting to new positions.

Japan's Meteorological Agency stopped forecasting cherry blossoms in 2010, after more than five decades, saying other organisations were now making predictions with sufficient accuracy.

The agency does however still declare the official start of cherry blossom season by monitoring 58 so-called barometer trees.

The trees are at locations across the country, and the precise locations are considered a closely-guarded secret.

One of them in Tokyo, however, is known to be at the Yasukuni Shrine.

From the beginning of March, inspectors visit the barometer trees once a day, with the trips increasing to twice daily as blossoming nears, Dojo said.

"We check flowers with our own eyes. And we announce the blossoming if five or six flowers appear," he added.

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