On June 4, meteorologists in Huntsville, Ala., noticed a “blob” on their radar screen that looked like a strong thunderstorm, despite the fact the sun was shining and not a drop of rain could be found within a few hundred miles. After some sleuthing, and several wacky explanations, the scientists have identified the culprit.
They found the blob was not nature-made, after all, and was likely so-called military chaff, or reflective particles used to test military radar.
“What we were able to see from the dual-pol radar data looked similar to military chaff cases previously, but the primary difference was that the winds weren’t blowing the stuff away,” Havin said. “The releases were happening primarily below 3,300 feet [1,000 meters] above the ground and the low-level winds that afternoon were almost nonexistent (less than 3 mph [4.8 km/h]), so the chaff was basically pluming outward over a good portion of the Huntsville metro area.”
I liked the more wacky explanations – swarms of insects would have been even more scary!
What is this “chaff”? Here we are…
Chaff [...] is a radar countermeasure in which aircraft or other targets spread a cloud of small, thin pieces of aluminium, metallized glass fibre or plastic, which either appears as a cluster of primary targets on radar screens or swamps the screen with multiple returns.
Modern armed forces use chaff (in naval applications, for instance, using short-range SRBOC rockets) to distract radar-guided missiles from their targets. Most military aircraft and warships have chaff dispensing systems for self-defence. An intercontinental ballistic missile may release in its midcourse phase several independent warheads, a large number of decoys, and chaff.
Obviously it is seen on radar, it swamped it. This incident was such that the chaff didn’t disperse for 9 hours and was noticed by many. Here is how meteorologists identify it.
because convective processes in the atmosphere produce rain, raindrops rarely appear this smooth and consistent. The more obvious way, of course, is to check the visible satellite — no clouds, no rain.
It does make me a bit nervous that people might think this is some kind of weapon (a la chemtrails). I’m not clear if it is environmentally hazardous. It’s been so widely used that we should have seen a problem by now.
Learn something new everyday around here…