Can you really predict the air temperature using cricket chirps?

Weather Blog

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — On those warm, summer nights we know so well, the warmth brings out the sounds of many animals that thrive and are most active during this time of year. From owls and frogs to crickets, these familiar sounds of summer can do more than fill us with that warm, fuzzy feeling of content. The frequency of cricket chirps you hear for example, are not random.

What if I told you that you can loosely figure out what the temperature outside is by counting the number of cricket chirps you hear?

How does it work?

Crickets make their classic chirping sounds by rubbing their wings together. Their muscles will expand and contract as a result of chemical reactions that happen from the ambient or outside temperature, and the rate at which they do this is highly dependent on how warm or cold it is outside.

Crickets are cold blooded animals, which means they adapt to, or take on the temperature of their surroundings. In this case, the warmer the temperature is the easier it is for the cricket’s muscles to expand and contract. This means the warmer is it is outside, the more chirps you’ll likely hear as a result!

Believe it or not, there is a scientific formula that’s used to figure this out. It started in 1897 when a physicist named Amos Dolbear formulated and published a law known as Dolbear’s Law. It’s used to state the relationship between the rate at which crickets chirp and the ambient, or outside air temperature.

Try it at home!

Take the number of cricket chirps you hear in 14 seconds, and add 40 to that number. Here’s the formal equation below:

Dolbear’s Law

T = 40 + N14

where T = temperature in Fahrenheit, N14 = number of cricket chirps in 14 seconds

For example, say you count 30 chirps in 14 seconds. Add 40 to that number and you get 70. That means the air temperature should be around 70 degrees!

Some say you could also count the number of chirps heard in 15 seconds, then add 37 to that. Which method is the most accurate? Try it out for yourself! You can use a timer on your phone, or even a stopwatch to count the chirps.

Can other animals predict the weather?

It’s hard to say how accurate these really are, but some weather folklore states the following:

  • If a cow stands with his tail pointing west, the weather is said to be fair. If his tail is pointing east, the weather will be active.
  • When cats purr or sneeze, cattle lie down, or dogs eat grass, you can expect rain.
  • The more brown color you see on a Wooly Bear caterpillar, the more mild the winter will be.
  • If a mole digs a hole that’s 2 and a half feet deep, expect severe weather. Anything more shallow than that, and no severe weather.

So, next time you’re outside and you hear the sound of crickets, try out this trick! How close is your number to the actual air temperature?

~Meteorologist Christine Gregory

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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