Weather radar detects a huge blob over California -- and it was alive
By Adriana Navarro, AccuWeather staff writer
June 09, 2019, 3:38:39 PM EDT
On Tuesday evening, June 4, the National Weather Service (NWS) office in San Diego picked up not rain on the radar, but a group of ladybugs called a "bloom."
The beetles were spread throughout the sky rather than packed into a clump, flying between 5,000 and 9,000 feet, NWS Meteorologist Joe Dandrea told the Los Angeles Times.
However, a phenomenon of bugs showing up on the weather radar isn't as uncommon as you would think.
The weather radar is powerful enough to pick up on bats, birds, butterflies and even pollen moving through the atmosphere. The trick is differentiating weather from animals.
"Radar works by sending a pulse of energy through the atmosphere, and when that pulse of energy encounters an object in the atmosphere like a raindrop, some of that energy in the pulse will bounce back to the radar itself," AccuWeather Meteorologist Brian Lada explained.
The NWS uses a dual-polarization weather radar, which sends pulses of energy through the atmosphere horizontally and vertically.
By using these two versions of energy pulses, "we can tell more information about the objects that it encounters when that pulse of energy hits an object in the sky," Lada said.
From these more detailed readings, meteorologists can see rain, large hail or in this case, ladybugs.
The chances of picking up animals on the radar are higher when the weather in the area is dry.
It's possible for meteorologists to tell the difference between precipitation and a swarm of animals on the screen from how the readings move to the shape they form.
"If the radar is detecting a colony of bats moving through the sky, that’s going to look different than it would raindrops in the atmosphere," Lada said.
For Lada, he was able to discern the blotch as something other than precipitation by the way that it traveled. He described the direction in which it was moving as "odd," compared to California's normal weather patterns. June is also typically a dry time of the year for Southern California.
Photos: Swarm of painted lady butterflies fill the sky in California during migration
Where have the nine-spotted ladybugs gone? Scientists ask for your photos to document sightings
This radar snapshot shows an extremely dangerous weather phenomenon underway
When the San Diego office of the National Weather Service saw the blotch, they called a ground spotter, who confirmed it wasn't precipitation, but ladybugs.
Although no one has been able to identify the type of ladybugs blooming on radar, convergent ladybugs are the most common type in the state, according to the National Park Service (NPS). From late May to early June, they usually migrate to the mountains to feed on aphids and pollen.
According to the (NPS), the beetles usually fly on windless days and have a minimal flying temperature of at least 55 degrees F.
Comments that don't add to the conversation may be automatically or manually removed by Facebook or AccuWeather. Profanity, personal attacks, and spam will not be tolerated.
More Weather News
Weather News - August 17, 2019, 5:13:06 PM EDT
A torrential downpour inundated Istanbul, Turkey, and other northwestern cities of the country on Saturday, resulting in the death of at least one person.
Weather News - August 17, 2019, 3:03:25 PM EDT
Dozens have been injured as the powerful tropical storm -- the third in three weeks to strike the country -- delivered its final blow.
Weather News - August 17, 2019, 12:41:57 PM EDT
As winter hangs on across Australia, another round of snow is expected to close out this weekend in parts of Victoria and southern New South Wales.
China and Taiwan to Japan on alert for a new tropical development in the aftermath of Krosa's deadly blow
Weather News - August 17, 2019, 11:42:19 AM EDT
If a new tropical depression or storm forms, impacts could range "anywhere from Taiwan to eastern China to southern Japan" next weekend.
Weather News - August 17, 2019, 11:32:14 AM EDT
Following news that monsoon rain has claimed more than 300 lives across India, Myanmar and Pakistan so far this month, the risk of flooding will expand to India's National Capital Region (NCR) this weekend.
Weather News - August 17, 2019, 1:15:25 PM EDT
Without much of a change in the pattern, thunderstorms will be around in Pennsylvania for the next several days.
Weather News - August 17, 2019, 2:58:43 PM EDT
Many locations have already had to deal with multiple rounds of thunderstorms over the past week and will have to endure additional rounds of torrential downpours, damaging winds, frequent lightning and possibly even an isolated tornado through the weekend.
Weather News - August 16, 2019, 1:33:35 PM EDT
Researchers discovered a new species of penguin that roamed the earth about 60 million years ago, stood over 5 feet tall and weighed nearly 180 pounds.