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Using cloud radar to investigate the effect of rainfall on migratory insect flight

Using cloud radar to investigate the effect of rainfall on migratory insect flight

Wainwright, Charlotte E., Volpone, Sabrina N., Stepanian, Phillip M., Reynolds, Don ORCID: 0000-0001-8749-7491 and Richter, David H. (2022) Using cloud radar to investigate the effect of rainfall on migratory insect flight. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 14 (2). pp. 655-668. ISSN 2041-210X (Online) (doi:

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1. The fate of migrating insects that encounter rainfall in flight is a critical consideration when modelling insect movement, but few field observations of this common phenomenon have ever been collected due to the logistical challenges of witnessing these encounters. Operational cloud radars have been deployed around the world by meteorological agencies to study precipitation physics, and as a byproduct, provide a rich database of insect observations that is freely available to researchers. Although considered unwanted ‘clutter’ by the meteorologists who collect the data, the analysis method presented here enables ecologists to delineate co-occurring signals from insects and raindrops.
2. We present a method that uses image processing techniques on cloud radar velocity spectra to examine the fate of migrating insects when they encounter precipitation. By analysing velocity spectra, we can distinguish flying insects from falling rain and compare the relative density of insects in flight before, during and after the rainfall. We demonstrate the method on a case of insect migration in Oklahoma, USA.
3. Using this method, we show the first reconstructed images of migrating insect layers in flight during rainfall. Our analysis shows that mild to moderate rainfall diminishes the number of insects aloft but does not cause full termination of migratory flight, as has previously been suggested.
4. We hope this technique will spur further investigations of how changing weather conditions impact insect migration, and enable some of the first of such studies in regions of the world that are underrepresented in the literature.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Special feature: Leveraging Natural History Collections to Understand the Impacts of Global Change.
Uncontrolled Keywords: entomology; flight behaviour; image processing; radar aeroecology
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
Q Science > QL Zoology
T Technology > T Technology (General)
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Engineering & Science
Faculty of Engineering & Science > Natural Resources Institute
Faculty of Engineering & Science > Natural Resources Institute > Pest Behaviour Research Group
Last Modified: 10 Jul 2023 10:44

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