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National Weather Service radar detects huge cicada cluster

If you’re somewhere in the U.S. that’s currently experiencing the cicada invasion, we feel for you.

The racket can be deafening, and few people enjoy finding one of the creatures crawling up the back of their neck or along their arm.

This year is particularly challenging as it marks the arrival of “Brood X,” a group of cicadas that only emerge from under the ground once every 17 years. And there are billions — possibly even trillions — of them right now clambering up trees and flying about in around 15 states across America.

In fact, there are so many cicadas out and about that they’re starting to show up on weather radar images.

A meteorologist for NBC and WTOP in Washington, D.C., posted a weather radar image on Monday, June 7, showing what at first glance appear to be rain clouds. But they’re not. They’re almost certainly cicadas.

“This is not rain, not ground clutter (the radar beam picking up objects close the radar site — which is in Loudoun County),” Lauryn Ricketts wrote in her Twitter post. “The Hydrometeor Classification algorithm identifies this as biological in likely CICADAS being picked up by the radar beam…”

THIS is not rain, not ground clutter (the radar beam picking up objects close the radar site –which is in Loudoun County)…. the Hydrometeor Classification algorithm identifies this as biological in likely CICADAS being picked up by the radar beam…

— Lauryn Ricketts (@laurynricketts) June 7, 2021

The Baltimore-Washington unit of the National Weather Service also suggested the data was down to a cluster of cicadas.

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 (@NWS_BaltWash) June 5, 2021

This appears to be the first time a cicada cluster has shown up on radar images in this way, suggesting you might want to stay clear of the area if you like your peace and quiet. If you live there, best keep the windows closed or stick a pair of earplugs in (or maybe use a pair of noise-canceling headphones).

And clearly it’s not just humans who are finding the situation challenging …

#BroodX is peaking & some people are getting pretty frustrated about it.

— Paige Byerly, PhD (@paigebyerly) June 7, 2021

The good news is that the cicadas don’t sting or bite and aren’t destructive, so don’t worry about the insects chomping on flowers or other plants in your yard.

They’re really only concerned with procreating, which is what all the noise is about — it’s the male trying to attract a mate.

Still, if you’re at your wits’ end listening to the racket, rest assured that it’ll all be over in a week or two and won’t happen again with this particular brood until 2038.

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Trevor Mogg
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