Brood X cicadas rise from the ground once every 17 years. This year, their numbers have been so massive that even weather radars are buzzing with confusion due to the sheer density of the population. The number of cicadas that have emerged from the ground since mid-May is nearly immeasurable, but experts say the number is likely in the trillions.
"You may have noticed a lot of fuzziness (low reflectivity values) on our radar recently. The Hydrometeor Classification algorithm shows much of it to be Biological in nature. Our guess? It's probably the #cicadas," NWS Baltimore-Washington tweeted on June 5.
A cicada's lifespan is roughly five weeks after it emerges from the ground. Most cicadas are predicted to be gone by the Fourth of July this year in the Washington region.
While it does not happen very often, it would not be the first time insects have cluttered enough space to cause a slight glitch in weather radars. Last spring, millions of mayflies appeared on the radar over Lake Erie.
Due to the sheer number of cicadas this season, some businesses have even offered the insects as an unusual food item to commemorate the once every 17 years event. The next cicada emergence will happen in 2038.
Weather radars can detect other forms of atmospheric phenomenon in the air, such as smoke from wildfires, birds in migration, and even the well-known Austin, Texas, bats that migrate from under the Congress Bridge each night.
"Weather radar is now very sophisticated in what it can detect," according to CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen. "The radar sends a beam of energy into the atmosphere, and if it hits a 'target,' it sends that information back to the radar."
Hennen added, "We don't know with absolute certainty" cicadas were detected by the NWS radar but noted there was no precipitation in the atmosphere at the time of the radar anomaly.
A professor of entomology at the University of Georgia disputed the claim that the anomaly was cicadas.
"Cicadas don't fly in groups, they don't swarm, and they are actually poor fliers," Nancy Hinkle told CNN on Tuesday, adding that she thinks the radar could have been detecting other insects.
The Washington Examiner contacted the NWS but did not immediately receive a response.
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Original Author: Kaelan Deese
Original Location: Influx of Brood X cicadas in Washington light up weather radar