May 8, 2021

Driving Factors of UFO/UAP Sightings

The UFO Threat

Recently I updated our UFO/UAP sightings report database to include 2019 and 2020. After a few weeks of necessary data clean up and augmentation, I began publishing a few statistical updates on social media. The new version of the database inclusively encompasses 2001 through 2020. It is a unique twenty-year sample of 21st century UFO/UAP Sighting reports.

To test our database for glitches, I generated a small sample of the needed charts, tables and graphs required for our next statistics book: UFO Sightings Desk Reference: United States of America 2001-2020.

I posted on social media, a United States summary of total sighting reports, ranked by sighting volume of states. As usual California topped the list as the number one state for UFO/UAP sighting reports. Almost immediately numerous people began commenting, something to the effect.

“Well California’s got a population of nearly 40 million people so, obviously UFO/UAP sightings reports are clearly driven by Population.”

Of course, I cringe when I see that sort of off-the-cuff opinion. There is an old saying that states; “There’s an easy answer to everything, and it’s usually wrong.”

When Linda Miller Costa and I were researching our UFO Sightings Desk Reference: United States of America 2001-2015, we discovered there were four basic drivers to UFO/UAP sightings reports.

  • Population
  • Temperate Weather
  • Leisure Time
  • Hours of Darkness

There are several other drivers that are known influences, but they do not apply to every location’s situation.  These drivers for the record are: Closeness to Large Bodies of water and something we call the Generational Effect. For the sake of keeping this article on point, I will not discuss these two influence factors in this article. 

Temperate Weather

Let us look at Temperate Weather first. Linda discovered that there were seasonal latitude differences between Northern, Middle and Southern states. Northern states tend to be flat in the January through May months. Then the sighting numbers ramp upward steeply in the June, July, August, summer months. Generally, there is a slow fall off through the fall months, settling into winter flatness again.

The Middle states have a similar seasonal pattern except that winter months sightings are a tad higher and the mid-summer peak is smaller. The summer months appears to flatten out and ramp off to fall sighting numbers similar to the winter-spring months.


Fig-1-The Latitude Effect

If we go to the Deep South states where the weather is generally temperate year-round, our UFO/UAP sighting reports pattern January through December is statistically flat. The summer months in the deep south states are notably lower, presumably due to much hotter weather conditions. When I used to live in the south, we considered ourselves as prisoners of Air Conditioning in the summer months.

Let us examine California. To begin with California is an odd animal if you try to compare it to any other state, let us just accept this as a truth. California as a state exists in nine lines of latitude. From the perspective of Climate, California is metaphorically equivalent to three or four different states. The east coast latitude equivalent would roughly be from the northern border of Pennsylvania extending southward to about the southern border of North Carolina.

Does California follow the aforementioned pattern you might expect across nine lines of latitude? Surprisingly, the answer is NO! The Weather pattern in California is completely opposite of that of multiple states stacked along the same lines of latitude. The northern part of the state is statistically flat. The middle part of the state has some seasonal bumps and southern California looks like a northern state might look.

Fig-2 – California Latitude Effect

In our opinion this is where other factors such as population come into play.

Fig-3 California – Months by Latitude

Lat 39 is the Sacramento and its burbs area. Lat 38 is the San Francisco Bay Area. Lat 37 id the Santa Cruz region south of the bay area.

Lat 34 is the Los Angeles on the coast and San Bernardino to the east. Finally, the Lat 33 is the San Diego area. Please note that the Lat 34 deep southern California area has an increase in sighting reports in the fall months as the stifling heat subsides.

Hours of the Day

We worked out an Hours of the Day algorithm in the fall of 2018.

 Fig-4 California – Hours-of-the Day by Latitude

The bulk of UFO/UAP sighting activity starts about 4pm and peaks typically about 9pm. The principle sighting window is between 6pm to 11pm. The core sighting window is between 7pm to 10pm. The bump at about 4am-6am seems to be driven by that first dog walking, the outdoors first smoke and getting ready to drive to work.

But the overnight hours seem to have unique individual state quirks. For example, the hours of the day chart for Nevada reflects bumps at 1am, 2am and 4am. A Nevada Investigator told me this is when the clubs and shows let out. In another notable example, Chicken farmers in Arkansas noticed a 3am bump and the normal 5am bump. They told me 3am is when they are outside preparing their birds to ship to market.

It should be noted that the Hours of the Day patterns are more an indication of human activity rather than the pattern of the UFOs/UAPs.  Most states have an almost bottoming out dip between 7am and 9am, in essence Morning Drive time. Lat34 is the Los Angeles Count and City area. It appears that drive time is an all-day event in Los Angeles, CA.

Leisure time

Linda and I observed in 2016 while compiling our first book that leisure time was a notable driver. As we looked at sighting report narratives there was commonly the mention of the observer “going out for a smoke.” As well as references of “walking the dog(s).” It went on and on, factory workers on a smoke break or the all-night take-out-delivery people on their rounds.

Then there were lovers on blankets in the back yard or on decks or laying on the hoods of cars enjoying a sky full of stars. We observed patterns in the data that people saw something while in the Mall parking lot or going to their car after and evening of bible study. In our opinion, leisure time became a significant driver for sighting reports.

Later in 2018, when we developed our Hours-of-the-Day algorithm, it all became very obvious to us that after work hours particularly around bedtime were the major times for UFO/UAP sighting activity.

Then in March and April of 2020 the world went into COVID 19 Lockdown. I had a lot of followers of our work send us email, or reach out on social media, suggesting that we track the lockdown for how the imposed “leisure time” would impact UFO/UAP sighting report volumes. We agreed and saw this as a perfect laboratory experiment to test our Leisure time hypothesis.

Below are two charts to illustrate just what happened. One for California and one for the USA nationwide. As you can see the early lockdown period of March and April 2020 had a huge rise in UFO/UAP sighting activity.

Fig-5 California UFO/UAP Sightings during COVID 19 Mar-Apr Lock Down

Fig-6 USA UFO/UAP Sightings during COVID 19 Mar-Apr Lock Down


Ok let us get to the Heart of the matter – Population. At the beginning of this article, I commented on how most people jump on California’s huge population as the sole driver for their massive amounts of UFO/UAP sighting reports.

The problem is as one of my scientist colleagues pointed out, the data must be “Normalized.” This is done by making a Per Capita calculation.   To get a Per Capita figure, we Divide the Number of something in this case UFO/UAPs sightings for a state by the respective state’s Population.

Per Capita = UFOs & UAPs divided by Population of the State

A couple of days before writing this article, a guy responded to a post I made with 2001-2020 individual State ranking and totals for UFO/UAP sightings. He complained, “Where’s Maine?”

Some months ago, a number of national media outlets carried an article with the headline that read roughly “Maine is Ground Zero for UFO Sightings.” Of course, this news item was posted all over social media.

The much-hyped article had a lot of people talking about driving to Maine for UFO/UAP sighting watches. The problem is like this: in the past twenty years Maine has logged 1386 UFO/UAP sighting reports, an average of about 69 per year, 5.7 per month, roughly 1.33 per week. Maine ranks 37th in the nation for UFO/UAP sightings.

What caused this problem? First, the numbers being hyped were Per Capita numbers. Second, too many people read the headline or associated graphic and not the article and accept the pronouncement of the headline as truth. Third, a large portion of our anti-science population does not understand the meaning of Per Capita and its implications.

The hitch with Per Capita numbers is that some things that appear to be equal or huge in the Per Capita context are not huge in reality. Point in Case, the State of Maine appears to be ground zero for all thing’s UFO/UAP. So here comes some news director who wants a sensational headline, and the web page views it generates.

There is a saying in statistics: “Lies, Damn lies and Statistics.”

Let us examine how a place with almost nothing can appear to be something. 

Fig-7 Per Capita Chart – Maine and similar States

On this chart look at Maine. In the first column is Maine’s UFO/UAP sighting report total for 2001-2020. In the next column we have the population of the State of Maine. On the far right we have the Per Capita number. Hey, 103.1 per capita is certainly better looking than those other numbers half that amount. Look at New Hampshire, it has a tad more sighting numbers but about 15k more people. If we look at New Mexico, it has 150% more sightings than Maine, but it has nearly twice the population to divide into 2111 sightings. Finally, let us look at Oregon with three times the number of sightings than Maine. In addition, it has three times the population in the state. Oregon has almost the same per capita number that Maine has. It should be noted that Oregon averages about 353 sighting per year over 20 years and about 30 per month and 6.7 per week. Despite a lower per capita number than Maine, I would hazard a guess that you would have a better chance of perhaps experiencing a UFO/UAP event in Oregon vs. Maine!

So finally let us look at California.

Fig-8 Per Capita Chart – California and similar States

Gee whiz, if we were only looking at a list of UFO/UAP per capita numbers and did not know the raw sighting numbers for the state you might overlook The Golden State. California, a state that averaged 1051 sightings per year for 20 years. A state that averages about 88 sightings per month or about 20 per week with a daily count of about three per day. Just a hint, Los Angeles County has the most sightings of over 3100 counties. LA county has more UFO/UAP sightings that 39 individual states. CC