Mystery radar "blob" over Huntsville - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Mystery radar "blob" over Huntsville

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB-TV) -- What looked like a strong rain cell on radar hovered stationary over Huntsville, Alabama for several hours Tuesday afternoon. Soon I and other meteorologists could tell it wasn't a storm, but what was it?

Often, on clear and fair days, radar can detect things like tall buildings, flocks of birds, or even swarms of insects. These can create false echoes which stay in the same position for a length of time. However, these possibilities in the Huntsville case were pretty quickly dismissed due to the pattern and strength of the radar returns.

Other theories included a dust plume from a blast at a nearby quarry or a smoke plume from a controlled burn. These were also dismissed after officials were allegedly contacted and said these activities didn't take place.

The last possible explanation is that the radar detected what's know in the military world as "chaff". From what I've learned, chaff are particles sprayed by aircraft or from ships and are used to produce these false radar echoes in hopes of making missiles miss their targets. Usually chaff are made of aluminum which is designed to be invisible. It may be that the nearby arsenal dispersed the chaff into the air as a test to "hide" an aircraft. A Chinook helicopter was reported circling the area. Or the helicopter itself was spraying the chaff. I've heard officials at the arsenal were contacted but didn't confirm any of this. It's still a mystery, but interesting nonetheless!

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