Phenological data series of cherry tree flowering in Kyoto, Japan, and its application to reconstruction of springtime temperatures since the 9th century



Changes in springtime temperature in Kyoto, Japan, since the 9th century were reconstructed, using the phenological data series for cherry tree (Prunus jamasakura), deduced from old diaries and chronicles. Phenological data for 732 years was made available by combining data from previous studies. The full-flowering date of cherry trees fluctuates in accordance with temperature conditions during February and March. Full-flowering dates were closely related to the March mean temperature by means of a temperature accumulation index, in which plant growth is considered to be an exponential function of temperature. Calibration enabled accurate estimation of temperatures in the instrumental period, after 1880; the root mean square error (RMSE) of temperature estimates was determined to be within 0.1 °C, after smoothing by local linear regression over time spans of 31 years. The results suggested the existence of four cold periods, 1330–1350, 1520–1550, 1670–1700, and 1825–1830, during which periods the estimated March mean temperature was 4–5 °C, about 3–4 °C lower than the present normal temperature. These cold periods coincided with the less extreme periods, known as the Wolf, Spoerer, Maunder, and Dalton minima, in the long-term solar variation cycle, which has a periodicity of 150–250 years. The sunspot cycle length, a short-term solar variation cycle, was also compared with the temperature estimates, with the result that a time lag of about 15 years was detected in the climatic temperature response to short-term solar variation. Copyright © 2007 Royal Meteorological Society