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UW cherry blossoms studied to better predict annual bloom

A team of researchers at the University of Washington is collecting data on the cherry blossoms in the Quad to help predict the annual bloom.

A sure sign of spring arrived Friday as the cherry trees on the University of Washington campus went into peak bloom. The trees are expected to put on a spectacular show for the next week and draw crowds with cameras and picnic baskets.

While the trees in the Quad are surrounded by science, there is little data about when Washington cherry blossoms bloom or how weather impacts the display. A team of UW student researchers is attempting to change that.

Lead by Ph.D. student Michael Bradshaw, the team is studying the famed UW cherry blossoms to help predict future blooms and understand the impacts of climate change.

RELATED: University of Washington cherry blossoms in peak bloom

Student volunteers are using a smartphone app to photograph the cherry blossoms and enter the information into a database. In a few years, the data should help provide a better prediction of when the trees will burst into their iconic pink color.

“I was getting emails within three weeks from different people at UW asking when the cherry trees are going to bloom, and I couldn't really tell them. I could only make a guess,” Bradshaw said.

The students are modeling their work after similar research in Washington, D.C., where Bradshaw said specialists can predict the annual bloom within a window of a few days, thanks in part to decades’ worth of data.

“We’ll be able to see trends to see how the change of climate is affecting bloom times,” Bradshaw explained.

UW said the blossoms could stay on the trees for two or three weeks if temperatures stay cool and there is little wind or rain.

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