When the National Weather Service calls, Twitter answers.
The BBC reported Friday that on October 3 the National Weather Service (NWS) spotted what it believed to be a 70-mile-wide swarm of birds on its Doppler radar over the Denver area.
Since they couldn’t identify the specific animal mucking up their bird’s eye view of the weather, the NWS turned to avian ally Twitter for help identifying the creatures.
But the good tweeters of Denver delivered a shock to the NWS when they reported that the swarm did not reflect birds — instead, the NWS was seeing a swarm of butterflies, Painted Lady butterflies, to be exact.
The NWS was initially so confident that birds comprised the swarm that they tagged the post #ornithology instead of #entomology (how embarrassing).
However they quickly realized, thanks to the help of Twitter, that they were picking up on the butterflies who were apparently taking over the streets of Denver.
Yes! This signature is butterflies, rarely seen on our radar.
— NWS Boulder (@NWSBoulder) October 5, 2017
Of course, Twitter couldn’t help but add in a little trolling with its public service.
But the mistake is understandable. Recently, the weather service radar observed and captured radar images of birds flying within the eye of Hurricane Irma. The Doppler radar has also picked up birds swarming during an earthquake, and seeking shelter from past hurricanes.
The NWS uses Doppler radar to monitor weather via satellite. A radar antenna emits bursts of radio waves, which hit rain, hail or snow on their way down to earth. The strength of the dynamic reflection of the burst of waves reveals the size, shape, and movement of weather in the atmosphere – or in this case, of the butterflies.
Wishing the Painted Lady butterflies a pleasant stay in Denver!