BROOD XIX Arrives: What Cicada say about Global Warming


Every once in a while an unexpected opportunity presents itself to show that the Earth is doing just fine.  That despite the unrelenting news that global warming is going to forever alter every aspect of life on Earth, things really are not changing according to the theory of global warming.  There is a current news blossom about The Great Southern Brood of cicadas.  It is also known as Brood XIX.

The Inconvenient Skeptic

Cicada Shell - I collected jars of these as a child in Kansas

Cicada are well known as the insects that only come out every 13 or 17 years.  The basics are that there are different broods of these insects that cover different regions of the USA.  Each brood of them pop out on different years in their specific region.  The end result is that there are many years with cicada broods, but this year is one of the big ones.  Big enough that there are records of it popping up all over the past.  This is how the cicada can tell the story (or lack thereof) of global warming.

My idea was to go back and find out when the news of the cicada popped out.  I was hoping to find a specific newspaper that I could use to reference the 13 year cycle of Brood XIX, but alas I have been unable to find one that goes far enough back, but I did find one in Georgia (Rome) that went back to the 1972 event.  Past that the locations vary which means the results are not directly comparable.  In addition by the time the newspapers prior to 1930 seem to think that everything was “17-Year Locusts” which isn’t that helpful because the cycle is off from Brood XIX.

I was able to find news articles reliably back to 1933 that are in cycle with Brood XIX.  So the question is, have the cicada’s been coming up out of the ground earlier and earlier the way the global warming predicts?  For the cicada temperature is what matters most.  They come up out of the ground when the temperature at the depth they live at reaches 64 F.  So if the Earth is warming, then the broods will breach earlier and earlier as time goes on.

Overall the arrival of Brood XIX is a fascinating way to see if nature is noticing a difference in the Earth’s climate.

Since the story has been breaking today (May 12th), that will be the day I am going to compare to the past.  This is also likely the fastest the news has made the rounds because in 1998 (last time for Brood XIX) the Internet was still in the early stages and news simply didn’t travel as quickly in those dark ages of information.

2011 – May 12th for a zero day anomaly.

1998 – May 10th 2 days earlier than 2011.

1985 – May 8th.  4 days earlier than 2011.

1972 – May 11th.  1 day earlier than 2011.

1959 – May 9th*.  3 days earlier than 2011.

1946 – May 13th*. 1 day later than 2011.

1933 – May 12th.  Same day as 2011.

This is hardly a rigorous study by location of the arrival of the cicada, but the absolute lack of variation of the news about the arrival of billions of Cicada in the southern USA shows a distinct lack of change.  In the past 78 years there has been a total window of 5 days.  If anything 2011 is late by slightly more than a day.  What isn’t happening is the cicada’s arriving earlier and earlier.

Perhaps the easiest way to prove that the cicada are not arriving early this year is that there is not a single news story which indicates that they showed up earlier than expected.  As the most obscure things are used to trumpet the onset of global warming, an event like the cicada showing up earlier in the year than expected would be shouted from every news outlet across the country.  That the cicada are still showing up on time means that either they missed the memo because they were buried underground for the past 13 years or perhaps the simpler explanation is that nothing of significance has changed for them.

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*1946 and 1959 are very vague.  I found early references, but only news from further away.

Posted in Climate and General by inconvenientskeptic on May 12th, 2011 at 9:09 pm.

1 comment

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  1. Richard111 May 14th 2011

    In South Africa there is a type of cicada refered to as the Christmas beetle. These little fellows only seemed to “sing” during the hottest part of the day around Christmas time of course. Folk lore claimed the louder they sang the hotter it was. Back in those days, some twenty years ago now, this was just a curiosity. I must email some friends out there and see if there is any recorded behavior of these beetles that match those in the USA.

    I now have Chistmas beetles living in my head – its called tinitus. I’ve got used to my beetles now. They sing for me 24/7 🙂

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