WSAV Now Weather: Using the cricket thermometer

WSAV NOW Weather

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Right before sunset during the summer is one of my favorite parts of the day. It’s a time where it’s not too hot and you can relax, unwind, and just listen to nature.  Most of the time all I can hear are crickets singing their lovely song. Did you know crickets are tiny meteorologists? In this episode of the Exploring the Atmosphere with Alysa, I’ll show you how you can use the cricket thermometer to tell the temperature.

Background on Crickets

Crickets are cold-blooded insects, meaning they take on the temperature of their surroundings. When it’s cold, insects stay motionless or make only small movements. In warm temperatures, insects are active as they absorb heat to increase their body temperature.  

Now contrary to popular belief, crickets do not use their legs to chirp! They instead produce the musical sound by rubbing their wings together. Male crickets run the sharp ridge on his wing against wrinkles on the other wing. Sort of like when you run your thumb against a comb. The chirping will pick up speed in warmer temperatures and slow down as temperatures cool down.

They chirp for a number of reasons. The male cricket chirps for mating, scare off other males, to warn of danger. And of course…determine temperature.

Dolbear’s Law

Dolbear’s law states the relationship between the air temperature and the rate of a cricket chirp. And it breaks down to a simple equation: the number of chirps in 14 seconds and then add 40 to that. The number you get should be an approximation of the outside temperature.

Testing it out

I tested this equation out and it was a bit tricky. Crickets don’t always sync their musical notes together and to decipher which chirp I was counting made me restart counting a couple of tries. The one time I got through the 14 seconds, I counted about 41 cricket chirps. By finishing the equation and adding 40 to that, we get a temperature of 81 degrees outside. The next step was to check our WSAV Now Weather App to see the current outside temperature and it was 85 degrees. Not exact, but it is a close approximation of the temperature. How cool is that!

The next time you are outside and hearing a cricket chirp, you can determine the temperature without even using a thermometer or your phone. 

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