Posted by: Barry Secrest
By Barry Secrest
As a former radarman and Naval Operations Specialist, when I here meteorologists talk about being puzzled over an amount of radar "CHAFF," never before seen in the US atmosphere, and in their ample experience, my ears automatically perk up.
In the US Navy, and in my particular specialty, we specifically dealt in matters of radar, navigation, enemy detection and movement, weapons systems, and military intelligence. One of the things in which we were trained specifically was the identification of CHAFF and how it displays on a radar as well.
You see CHAFF is used in the military in order to fool radars and mask what might be going on within the CHAFF penumbra. It can also fool enemy weapons systems by providing a more powerful radar signature than the object of value which needs to be protected, such as a jet, or even a ship and possibly even strategic movements.
Aircraft use it to fool enemy weapons systems, but even more importantly and in our case, to essentially mask what might be going on inside the CHAFF. The clincher? What is it that might be going on in areas near both Florida and Washington DC which would prompt an unprecedented usage of Military CHAFF?
Several prominent meteorologists have communicated both between one another and to their loyal followers the fact they are witnessing CHAFF being used at an unprecedented level.
Are we talking about the Mother of military exercises? And, if that be the case, why? There was one other time, in recent history, when Meteorologists witnessed and commented on the extraordinary amount of CHAFF being seen within the atmosphere.
A war soon followed....
The following is a report from Accuweather:
The Southeast U.S. has been plagued the past couple days by "military chaff" -- groupings of millions of tiny fibers released by aircraft. This has been going on ever since radar was invented (in fact it can be a way todisrupt foreign aviation radar). You see it show up during clear weather every week or two, and since I've blogged about radar anomalies before, I'm surprised to realize that I haven't talked about this one. Here's a radar shot from southern Georgia and northern Florida yesterday afternoon, overlaid onto a 3-D radar image:You can see that the chaff yesterday formed a very consistent "tube" in the atmosphere, extending from the surface up to about 12,000 feet. This is one way that meteorologists can 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. Here's a wider angle of what it looked like on radar (still image | download avi | raw animation):What is chaff? GlobalSecurity.Org says simply "Chaff consists of small fibers that reflect radar signals and, when dispensed in large quantities from aircraft, form a cloud that temporarily hides the aircraft from radar detection." This is what is looks like according to WikiPedia:Could it harm the environment? Releasing a bunch of aluminum and/or glass into the atmosphere doesn't sound like a great idea, but that website uses words like "unidentified / not significant concerns / extremely isolated / few effects / not likely / remote" to describe any harmful effects. Their point is, the percentage of the atmosphere or earth (when it falls) is extremely small. I expect environmental groups would disagree.Hat tip to Brad Panovich for pointing out this chaff yesterday -- there was almost no precipitation on the radar so I wasn't paying attention. In fact his page has a number of photos of hole-punch clouds yesterday in the Carolinas, but I don't think they were related because they were further north.