An unusually warm winter has left Albuquerque with an army of grasshoppers, who are now flying high enough to mess with weather radar readings.
With more eggs able to survive winter and hatch this spring, grasshoppers reached a point of infestation, local news reports said. Updrafts of air have apparently swept some grasshoppers as high as 1,000 feet. National Weather Service meteorologists reached that conclusion after noticing weird radar imagery.
The meteorologists checked equipment to make sure it wasn’t malfunctioning before getting word from officials elsewhere in the agency what the problem was — a large gathering of insects moving through the sky.
Radar detections of swarms of insects, colonies of bats or flights of birds are not uncommon. In fact, researchers often use special radar technology to track their migratory patterns. And the National Weather Service in Las Vegas noticed grasshoppers on their readings last May.
But the grasshopper cloud pickup was new for New Mexico.
“We knew pretty quickly it wasn’t rain,” meteorologist Jason Frazier told the Albuquerque Journal on Friday. The weather service said on Twitter and Facebook that it noticed the correlation coefficient for what turned to be the grasshopper clouds varied from what would be expected of precipitation.
Brent Wachter, a fellow forecaster, explained to KRQE-TV that the objects picked up by the radar were "busier" than what's seen with water particles. And, presumably, not quite as wet.