Mysterious Massive Plumes Of Chaff Cloud Are Lighting Up Radar Over Maine, Midwest, and Florida
Meteorologists, and anyone else watching weather radar in southern Illinois, southwestern Indiana, and western Kentucky, noticed an unusual formation drifting through the area.
Two days after more plumes have now appeared over Maine and Florida. The first reports of the apparent chaff plumes in Maine began to appear on social media around 5:30 PM EST on Dec. 12, 2018. Early on, four distinct clouds were visible, but these had blended together into a larger blob with a peak length of more than 100 miles by 7:45 PM. The huge cloud was moving southwest and looked like it could easily drift into New Hampshire and beyond.
It’s unclear exactly when on Dec. 12,
At around 3:00 PM Central Time on Dec. 10, 2018, weathermen at local news stations in the area, as well as a National Weather Service (NWS) in Paducah, Kentucky, began tracking the radar “blob” as it dramatically expanded in length and began to move southward. Closer to 2:00 AM Central Time on Dec. 11, 2018, Wayne Hart, the Chief Meteorologist at ABC-affiliate WEHT in Evansville, Indiana, took to Twitter to offer the first real information about the radar reflective plume.
Although evidence remains limited, this was likely a burst of chaff released from a U.S. military aircraft, but there is still no clear explanation as to why the plane released the radar-reflecting countermeasures in this particular area.
First developed during the Second World War, chaff consists of bundles of radar reflective material, commonly aluminum strips or bundles of metalized glass fibers. These types of material are extremely reflective on radar and as seen in the tracks above, can blind and confuse radars and their operators. The size of the individual strips or strands has a direct impact on what radar bands the chaff affects.
C-130 types do have the ability to fire chaff from their AN/ALE-47countermeasures dispensing system. The aircraft may have also had a launcher mounted on its rear cargo ramp or fitted in either of the two paratrooper doors on either side of the rear fuselage, that is if a C-130 is responsible for this puzzling countermeasures deployment.
During an actual military operation, fighters jets and other combat aircraft would fire chaff defensively to make it difficult for fire control radars or the seekers on radar-guided air-to-air and surface-to-air missiles to track and engage them. Bulk chaff deployments could help conceal the total number of aircraft involved in a mission or their exact direction of movement. During the invasion of Iraq in 2003, ground- and air-launched modified BQM-34 drones dumped chaff along specific corridors to conceal Tomahawk cruise missiles as they flew toward their targets.
Still, it seems unusual for so many large chaff clouds to keep popping up in so many places around the country in such a short timespan. They’ve all generally been unusually persistent, too, typically lasting multiple hours, before finally disappearing from the radar screens.
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