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Mystery blob on Albuquerque weather radar turns out to be massive grasshopper swarm

Scott Sutherland
Meteorologist/Science Writer

Wednesday, June 4, 2014, 5:16 PM - Last week, a giant blob appeared on weather radar headed straight for Albuquerque, New Mexico, but when it arrived, it wasn't a downpour, but was instead a massive swarm of grasshoppers.

According to Modern Farmer, Brent Wachter, a meteorologist with the U.S. National Weather Service, said that powerful winds may have caught the insects and carried them aloft, to as high as 2,000 feet (over 600 metres). At that height, the swarm would have easily been seen on radar.

"I've worked for the National Weather Service for 13 years and I've never seen grasshoppers show up on radar before," he told them.

This sort of thing isn't unheard of, though. In February of 2013, New Zealand's MetService picked up something strange on their radar on the night of the 21st and the morning of the 22nd. The best explanation for it was a swarm of beetles of the species Acrossidius tasmaniae, also known as the Tasmanian grass grub.

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Why so many grasshoppers invading Albuquerque?

According to what John Garlisch, from Bernalillo County Cooperative Extension Service, told Modern Farmer, the presense of these particular grasshoppers isn't so strange, since they're a species native to the area. However, the drought conditions that the U.S. southwest has been suffering under over the past year have allowed more grasshopper eggs to survive and hatch, leading to larger swarms.

"The drought has made food harder to come by out on the open range lands, there’s a lack of tender green shoots for the swarm to feed on," he said. "In the search for food, what better place to look than the Rio Grande river valley and the lush green lawns and gardens of Albuquerque?"

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