Today is the first day of spring, but really, it's more like the last day of the winter that wasn't.
Following a mild winter with little to no snow, March is looking to set the record for one of the warmest months in New Jersey since 1945, according to weather experts.
"The fact is whether it's the warmest or the third warmest, we're talking about a century-worth of records," said New Jersey state climatologist Dr. David Robinson. "That's pretty impressive."
In and around Bloomfield, temperatures have been 9.2 degrees above average in March, with the warmest month ever recorded in 1945, when temperatures were 9.1 degrees above average, according to Robinson.
But an upcoming surge of warm weather – Thursday is supposed to be in the upper 70s! – could help break that record, as long as temperatures stay 10 degrees above normal through the end of March.
"That's certainly doable," said Robinson. "It may come down to what the temperatures are next week."
Besides an early start to allergy season, the unseasonable weather has spurred the early bloom of plants across the state, including hundreds of cherry blossoms in Branch Brook Park, which boasts the world's most diverse collection of the ornate trees.
About 25 percent of the park's 4,300 trees flowered 10 days early and a few weeks prior to the start of Essex County's annual Cherry Blossom Festival April 7, according to Kate Hartwyk, director of the county's division of cultural and historic affairs. Typically, the trees, which showcase a range of colorful buds from pale pink to vibrant fuchsia, don't begin to bloom until late March.
"It's not unprecedented," said Hartwyk. "If you get a stretch of warm weather, especially at night, the trees don't slow down. They continue to blossom."
But the early bloom is no cause for alarm. Only the single blossom trees have already bloomed and the park's 13 other varieties will flower over the course of four to five weeks, ensuring that visitors will get a chance to enjoy the billowing blossoms, Hartwyk said.
And the buds should be able to withstand the bloom season so long as temperatures don't drop overnight in the coming weeks, said Robinson.
"If we get cold nights in late March or early April, fruit trees, and potentially the end of the cherry blossom season, could be nipped in the bud," he said.
Even so, the festival dates are locked in a year in advance and changing them isn't an option, according to Hartwyk.
The Cherry Blossom Festival, which draws crowds from all over the world, runs until April 22 and features a wealth of family friendly events, like the 10K run (April 15), bike race (April 7) and community picnic (April 14).
Hartwyk said the county has already begun staffing its Cherry Blossom Visitor's Center, located just off S. Franklin Avenue on the Newark/Belleville border, to prepare for an early crush of spectators.
This year, the park also features a new, 48-stop cell phone walking tour that allows visitors to dial in and hear historical tidbits about the area.
Tell us what you think of the early spring in our comments section! Have you taken any photos of the new signs of spring? If so, post them to our Neighborhood Gallery!
Click here to see more information on spring events in our area.