Posted on Jul 6, 2012 in Science & nature
Is it true that you can figure out the temperature based on a cricket’s chirps?
So you’re out for a hike and you desperately need to know what the temperature is. Why? I don’t know. Maybe it’s all part of your fantasy where you become Jim Cantore and Bear Grylls combined. Anyway. What do you do? Pull out your iPhone and check the weather? Nope, no signal. Check your little zipper-pull thermometer on your backpack? Darn, looks like it’s gone missing. Now what?
There is truth to the old adage that you can tell the temperature by how fast a cricket is chirping (though technically, the correct term for the chirping is stridulation).
The mathematical correlation between temperature and chirping rate is called Dolbear’s Law, named for the inventor and physicist Amos Dolbear, who first noted the phenomenon in 1897.
Not only has note of the relationship been published in The Old Farmer’s Almanac for generations, the theory was more recently put to the test by Dr Peggy LeMone of the GLOBE program and she published her findings in October 2007 on her blog. If you really like charts, graphs, the scientific method, and handfuls of raw data, you can follow the link on over there to read all about it. If you prefer the condensed version, here are the working formulas:
For the temperature in degrees Fahrenheit: Count the number of chirps in 13 seconds, then add 40.
For the temperature in degrees Celsius: Count the number of chirps in 15 seconds, add 9, then divide the total by 2.
Assuming you can either discern one individual cricket, or take an average of a couple chirp counts, this should get you within +/- 2 degrees. (Also note that below 55 degrees Fahrenheit most crickets won’t be chirping, and they tend to slow down if it gets about 90 degrees F or so.)
Do note that there are many different species of cricket in the world and they all chirp at different rates, however this should work anywhere in North America where the snowy tree cricket (a green guy) is the most common species doing the thermometer thing.
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