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. Tokyo declares cherry blossom season open

by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) March 21, 2009
Japanese authorities on Saturday declared the cherry blossom season open in Tokyo, with the blooming date getting earlier due to what some experts say is the effect of global warming.

Millions of Japanese wine and dine each year at parties under the cherry trees, whose delicate but short-lived blossoms have left centuries worth of poets pondering the ephemeral nature of beauty.

A meteorological agency official confirmed that more than 10 buds on a designated Somei-Yoshino cherry tree planted in the grounds of Yasukuni shrine, central Tokyo, came into bloom on Saturday morning.

The officially declared blooming date in the capital came earlier than average for the fourth consecutive year, according to the agency.

"A rise in temperatures is one of the key elements prompting cherry trees to bloom," another agency official said. "The early blooming could be affected by global warming, but we need more study to probe it."

Researchers at Kyushu University have predicted that global warming would prompt cherry trees to bloom in northern Japan more than three weeks earlier than average by the end of this century, the Mainichi Shimbun reported.

"The results showed climate change can also affect our familiar events such as cherry blossom," Hisanori Ito, a meteorologist at the western Japanese university, told the daily. "Global warming is an imminent problem."

The closely-watched announcement made the headlines with Japanese television networks showing footage of white and pink blossoms swaying gently under the spring sunshine.

Mapping the location of the cherry-blossom front, which moves northeast along the Japanese archipelago, is a key duty for the meteorological agency in March and April.

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Phytoplankton Is Changing Along The Antarctic Peninsula
New Brunswick NJ (SPX) Mar 20, 2009
As the cold, dry climate of the western Antarctic Peninsula becomes warmer and more humid, phytoplankton - the bottom of the Antarctic food chain - is decreasing off the northern part the peninsula and increasing further south, Rutgers marine scientists have discovered.

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