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A security staff member holds a sign advising against viewing parties with more than five people during the cherry blossom bloom in Tokyo on March 23. Photo: Yuichi Yamazaki/Getty Images

Cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C. and Japan have already reached peak flowering dates — and the Japanese city of Kyoto recorded its earliest bloom for over 1,200 years, the Washington Post reported on Monday.

Why it matters: It fits a longer-term trend spanning decades of Japanese mountain cherry trees flowering earlier, and scientists warn it's another strong sign of the impact of climate change.

Cherry blossom times each year, Kyoto, Japan, 800 A.D. to the present day. Photo: Osaka Prefecture University.

What they're saying: Columbia University climate scientist Benjamin Cook noted that the earlier flowering is likely down to a combination of climate change and "an enhanced heat island effect due to increased urbanization of the environment over the last couple of centuries," per the Post.

  • Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann told WashPost, "Evidence, like the timing of cherry blossoms, is one of the historical ‘proxy’ measurements that scientists look at to reconstruct past climate.
"In this case, that 'proxy' is telling us something that quantitative, rigorous long-term climate reconstructions have already told us — that the human-caused warming of the planet we're witnessing today is unprecedented going back millennia."

The big picture: Kyoto's cherry blossoms reached peak bloom last Friday, following an unusually warm spring.

  • "In 1850, the average flowering date was about April 17; now, it's closer to April 5," WashPost reports. "During this time, the average temperature in Kyoto has risen by about 6 degrees."

Tokyo's cherry blossom season began on March 14, 12 days earlier than the typical time, and hit peak bloom on March 22 — the second-earliest date ever recorded, per Japan Forward.

In Washington, D.C., the National Park Service announced in a statement Sunday that the Yoshino cherry trees had "reached peak bloom after temps well above average last week sped us through the final stages of the blossom cycle."

  • NPS records show that the trees, donated by Japan in 1912, have hit peak bloom earlier and earlier — going from around April 5 to March 31.
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The next month is the most important period for U.S. climate action in more than a decade, and possibly ever, longtime advocates and observers tell Axios.

Why it matters: With scientists issuing more urgent warnings that time is running out to curtail the consequences of global warming, the policy choices proposed through the end of April could reverberate for decades to come.

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Jake Sullivan. Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty

Top national security officials from the U.S. and Israel will convene virtually on Tuesday for a second round of strategic talks on Iran, three Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: The talks come two days after an explosion at an Iranian nuclear facility that experts consider a likely act of Israeli sabotage, and one day before the U.S. resumes indirect nuclear talks in Vienna over a return to the 2015 nuclear deal — a prospect that has raised anxiety levels in Jerusalem.

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Police: Officer who shot Daunte Wright accidentally pulled gun instead of taser

The officer who fatally shot Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, outside Minneapolis Sunday appeared to have inadvertently pulled out her gun instead of a taser, police said.

Driving the news: "This appears to me, from what I viewed in the officer's reaction and distress immediately after, that this was an accidental discharge that resulted in the tragic death of Mr. Wright," Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon told reporters Monday.