Chaff detected by RADAR on January 11, 2005

What happened?

Periodically, RADAR returns occur with obviously clear skies overhead. This can occur for many reasons, including anomalous propagation (AP) and ground clutter. But sometimes the RADAR echoes are moving over time (unlike GC or AP), so there must be something there.
On January 11, 2005, such RADAR echoes appeared in east-central Alberta and west-central Saskatchewan. The source of the RADAR echoes? Chaff. Chaff is millions of tiny bits of plastic or metal dropped in the air within the range of a RADAR. Chaff was originally used in World War II as a RADAR confusion technique--the beam would either bounce off the chaff and be unable to detect objects (airplanes, missles) farther away, or the chaff itself would be detected as a potential "something out there" and, either way, the RADAR operators would be confused. Nowadays Chaff is released periodically near air force bases as a training tool.

RADAR images

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Last update to this page: January 12, 2004