- There are so many cicadas emerging in the mid-Atlantic that weather radar is picking them up.
- The National Weather Service told us radar is identifying “biological” substances, likely cicadas.
- The NWS said meteorologists should be able to determine the difference between weather and cicada.
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The 17-year “Brood X” cicadas are hatching in such high numbers that they’re being picked up by weather radar in Virginia.
“THIS is not rain, not ground clutter,” NBC meteorologist Lauryn Ricketts tweeted on Monday. “So likely CICADAS being picked up by the radar beam.”
-Lauryn Ricketts (@laurynricketts) June 7, 2021
Kyle Pallozzi, a Virginia-based meteorologist for the National Weather Service, told Insider that Ricketts’ suspicion was “100%” true.
Pallozzi said the NWS has a weather radar located in Sterling, Virginia, in the same region as the radar map that Ricketts posted, and explained that the beams the radar devices send out rise the further they travel from the machine.
So the beams are picking up the newly emerged cicadas on the ground near the Sterling radar, but fewer and fewer cicadas are identified as the beam’s height increases away from the ground, which is why the blip on the map is so close to the radar itself, Pallozzi said.
While the cicadas are populous enough for weather radar to notice them, Pallozzi said it’s easy for any meteorologist to discern the difference between weather events and cicadas due to the “Hydrometeor Classification Algorithm.”
Pallozzi said the NWS can use the algorithm to determine the likelihood that a radar beam is picking up hail, rain, snow, something biological, or more.
The NWS’ Baltimore-Washington account tweeted on Saturday that local radar was reporting “a lot of fuzziness” that it attributed to cicadas.
-NWS Baltimore-Washington (@NWS_BaltWash) June 5, 2021
Jon Erdman, a senior meteorologist at The Weather Channel, also told Insider that he wasn’t sure if cicadas were the cause for the specific incident Ricketts reported but said that the theory could be correct depending on how high cicadas can fly.