UPDATE @ 10:53 p.m.: The National Weather Service confirms with the military that countermeasures / chaff was released south of Indianapolis this evening, which caused the mysterious “blob” to show up.
Weather service officials also said we should expect more “blobs” to show up on radar soon. The chaff release showed up on radar for nearly five hours.
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s… chaff?
While sitting in the weather center today and preparing for our newscast, Storm Center 7 Meteorologist McCall Vrydaghs and I spotted what first looked like heavy rain developing near Columbus, Ind. But something just didn’t add up.
There was nothing anywhere around it on radar. And while a shower was possible thanks to the cooler air aloft, it was unlikely we’d see rain this heavy and this persistent in this area.
Second, this area of “precipitation” was not really moving — as it appeared to just be redeveloping over the same spot.
Finally, a check of the high-resolution visible satellite also did not show any clouds that would indicate rain in the area.
Doppler radar detected this “blob” at or just below 8,000 feet and you can see that on our radar analysis software in Storm Center 7.
So what was it?
While we are still not 100 percent sure, it appears a military base nearby was testing an anti-missile defense system that uses something called “chaff” or “countermeasures.”
Chaff consists of small fibers that reflect radar signals, and when dispensed in large quantities from aircraft form a type of cloud that temporarily hides the aircraft from radar detection.
The two major types of military chaff in use are aluminum foil and aluminum-coated glass fibers. The military in previous reports about their release of chaff said this material is not harmful.
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