‘Chaff’ New Theory On Mystery Radar Blob


Some of the chaff found along Zierdt Road in Huntsville in 2013 (Photo: WHNT News 19)

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Data pix.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - There's a new theory about what caused a mysterious 'blob' on radar images over west Huntsville on Tuesday.  This one may stick.

Some of the chaff found along Zierdt Road in Huntsville (Photo: WHNT News 19)
Some of the chaff found along Zierdt Road in Huntsville (Photo: WHNT News 19)

The radar experts at UAHuntsville call the blob "chaff." Graduate students at UAH found clumps of chaff on Zierdt Road.  The chaff is silver and resembles strands of hair.

The chaff is believed to have a fiberglass component.  Dr. Kevin Knupp, a professor of Atmospheric Science at UAH, said fiberglass is a highly reflective material, which explains why it showed up on the radar Tuesday.

According to a tweet from UAHuntsville Severe Weather, the chaff was found near the point of high radar reflectivity:

WHNT News 19's David Kumbroch went to the area where UAHuntsville found the chaff earlier today. He found a few clumps of the material near an apartment complex on Zierdt Road.

Knupp was unable to confirm if the chaff is in connection to any tests on the Redstone Arsenal.

The Arsenal issued this statement: "Aviation and missile technology testing at Redstone collects data that protects and improves the weapon systems that America's sons and daughters are using in ongoing overseas contingency operations, and in forward-deployed areas worldwide.  As a matter of Operational Security policy, we do not offer details concerning the circumstances under which testing activities are performed.  Further, discussing specific measures and operational procedures could adversely affect the success of testing activities.  We routinely evaluate and validate weapon systems and components so that we and our allies can maintain the edge over adversaries.  Testing assures that war fighting capabilities are in a high state of readiness."

Knupp explains chaff could be used to disrupt a radar, possibly covering up the presence of an aircraft.

We're also following this phenomenon on our weather blog, Valleywx.com.

-Posted by Anna Faulk and David Kumbroch, WHNT News 19