NWS radar picks up ABQ grasshopper infestation


ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – It started out as a mystery that even the National Weather Service couldn’t solve.

Their Doppler radar has been showing something moving over the Metro area each night.

Now they know that huge mass is a swarm of grasshoppers flying over Albuquerque.

“In this situation, we know that it’s something other than precipitation because the particles we’re sensing are not uniform – they’re busier,” said Brent Wachter, forecaster with NWS in Albuquerque.

Wachter says he’s occasionally seen activity from bats in the Jemez or cicadas, during particularly bad seasons but never a grasshopper swarm covering the entire Metro.

“We actually thought the radar was broke, so we had our technicians go out there a couple times,” he said. “They couldn’t find anything wrong, so we had to call the National Radar Depot in Oklahoma.”

The people in Oklahoma said they’d seen something like it before and asked whether Albuquerque was having any sort of insect infestation.

The radar shows that swarm of grasshoppers is flying about 1,000 feet in the air.

For perspective, that’s about three times the height of the Bank of Albuquerque.

“We can explain it, certainly,” said Paul Smith, with the city of Albuquerque Environmental Department.

Smith says the grasshoppers seen in Albuquerque’s invasion are pretty good flyers to start with, and then, there’s the wind.

“With temperatures warming up, we have a lot of thermal inversions,” he said. “It’s no stretch to imagine that they’re getting pulled up by some of these up currents and getting high into the atmosphere.”

Smith says last year’s big monsoon season, plus the mild winter, created the perfect combination for all the grasshoppers just waiting to hatch a few weeks ago.

He says they should die off in mid-June.

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