The stationary “cloud" was a controlled release of something called chaff.

On Wednesday afternoon weather radars detected a cloud near Huntsville, Alabama, hovering in place for hours. Its lethargy was odd, as was its existence, because the day was clear.

Was a microstorm absolutely raining buckets on a few unlucky families? The explanation might be just as weird for those who aren’t into military technology. Radars were actually picking up on a plume of chaff released over Redstone Arsenal, a large Army installation in northwest Alabama. When it fell to the ground, the stuff resembled little wads of metallic fluff, like steel-wool snowflakes.

Here’s the purpose of chaff, according to GlobalSecurity:

When ejected from an aircraft, chaff forms the electromagnetic equivalent of a visual smoke screen that temporarily hides the aircraft from radar. Chaff also serves to decoy radar allowing aircraft to maneuver or egress from the area. It consists of small... fibers of aluminum or aluminum-coated glass that disperse widely in the air when ejected from the aircraft and effectively reflect radar signals in various bands, in order to create a very large image of reflected signals (“return”) on the radar screen. In the air, the initial burst from a chaff bundle forms a sphere that shows up on radar screens as an electronic cloud. The aircraft is obscured by the cloud, which confuses enemy radar.

The arsenal later confirmed it dispersed chaff as part of “threat countermeasure testing,” reports WHNT News, so all you Alabamans fearing an invasion can put down your guns now.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. An aerial photo of downtown Miami.
    Life

    The Fastest-Growing U.S. Cities Aren’t What You Think

    Looking at the population and job growth of large cities proper, rather than their metro areas, uncovers some surprises.

  2. Transportation

    When a Transit Agency Becomes a Suburban Developer

    The largest transit agency in the U.S. is building a mixed-use development next to a commuter rail station north of Manhattan.

  3. a photo of a BYD-built electric bus.
    Transportation

    A Car-Centric City Makes a Bid for a Better Bus System

    Indianapolis is set to unveil a potentially transformative all-electric bus rapid transit line, along with a host of major public transportation upgrades.

  4. a photo of a woman on an electric scooter
    Design

    A Bad New Argument Against Scooters: Historic Inappropriateness

    The argument over whether electric scooters belong in Old Town Alexandria reflects an age-old rationalization against change.

  5. a map of London Uber driver James Farrar's trip data.
    Transportation

    For Ride-Hailing Drivers, Data Is Power

    Uber drivers in Europe and the U.S. are fighting for access to their personal data. Whoever wins the lawsuit could get to reframe the terms of the gig economy.

×