Weather officials who were baffled by mysterious clusters on radar in New Mexico last week now say a giant swarm of grasshoppers was to blame.
According to the National Weather Service, the masses were detected for four straight nights about 1,000 feet over Albuquerque.
Despite reports of showers in the area, meteorologists knew the radar wasn't picking up precipitation because the particles were not uniform.
“We actually thought the radar was broken, so we had our technicians go out there a couple times,” Brent Wachter, a forecaster with the weather service in Albuquerque, told KRQE. “They couldn’t find anything wrong.”
The technicians then called the National Radar Depot in Oklahoma, which said it had come across cases of migrating bats, birds and insects showing up on radar before.
Officials at the Albuquerque Environmental Department say last year's monsoon season coupled with a dry winter led to an influx of grasshoppers, which hatched a few weeks ago and were likely pulled up high into the atmosphere by thermal inversions and southwest winds.
Chuck Jones, a local meteorologist, said he's encountered the grasshoppers while hiking in West Mesa, where the radar clusters first appeared.
“As soon as you walk toward the first volcano out there, there’s tens of thousands of them,” Jones told the Albuquerque Journal. “You can hardly take a step without being concerned about crushing them.”
Other than defoliating some garden plants and annoying local meteorologists, the grasshoppers are harmless.