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. A sign outside a storefront in Buffalo, New York.
    Environment

    Will Buffalo Become a Climate Change Haven?

    The Western New York city possesses a distinct mix of weather, geography, and infrastructure that could make it a potential climate haven. But for whom?

  2. photo: A vacant home in Oakland that is about to demolished for an apartment complex.
    Equity

    Fix California’s Housing Crisis, Activists Say. But Which One?

    As a controversy over vacancy in the Bay Area and Los Angeles reveals, advocates disagree about what kind of housing should be built, and where.

  3. A line of stores in Westport, Connecticut
    Equity

    Separated by Design: How Some of America’s Richest Towns Fight Affordable Housing

    In southwest Connecticut, the gap between rich and poor is wider than anywhere else in the country. Invisible walls created by local zoning boards and the state government block affordable housing and, by extension, the people who need it.

  4. A photo of a police officer in El Paso, Texas.
    Equity

    What New Research Says About Race and Police Shootings

    Two new studies have revived the long-running debate over how police respond to white criminal suspects versus African Americans.

  5. photo: a high-speed train in Switzerland
    Transportation

    The Case for Portland-to-Vancouver High-Speed Rail

    At the Cascadia Rail Summit outside Seattle, a fledgling scheme to bring high-speed rail from Portland to Vancouver found an enthusiastic reception.

×