Storm Highway by Dan Robinson
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                   Friday, February 20, 2009 - 1:06PM

Military chaff echoes on NWS radar

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I saw these strange echoes on Charleston's radar (KRLX) this morning that resembled snow bands:

This animation shows the echoes as they moved into southern West Virginia. Satellite imagery, however, showed clear skies at the time, and sure enough, when I looked outside, there was nothing to be seen in the southern sky but a few small cumulus clouds. No contrails or anything of that sort were visible.

A snow band would show up clearly on satellite and visually in person, so what was causing the band echo on radar? It turns out that it was military "chaff", thin strips of aluminum foil dropped from aircraft. The chaff's high radar reflectivity is designed to confuse/jam enemy radar, and consequently it shows up strongly on doppler weather radars.

The Louisville, Kentucky NWS office put together a writeup on a similar event.

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