The mystery blob that appeared on radars across the Tennessee Valley on Tuesday is still unexplained. The anomaly as it is affectionately being called, started appearing on doppler screens in the early afternoon hours and eventually covered an area nearly the size of Huntsville city limits itself. The blob was accompanied by increased military aircraft activity and numerous reports of strange chemical odors.
Huntsville, Alabama is largely anchored by various military-industrial complex companies, the NASA program and one of the largest US military bases, Redstone Arsenal. Redstone Arsenal is home to new units and personnel as a result of BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) as well as many classified entities.
To see a headline like this raises many possibilities to mild skeptics and the reckless conspiracy theorists alike. Scanning the internet, many blamed the anomaly on HAARP, which is not farfetched for a number of reasons, but unlikely in this case. Others mentioned chemtrails as it is constantly rumored that new, stealthier geoengineering technologies have been developed of late.
What is known is that there were more than the usual number of military helicopters flying around Tuesday afternoon. It is common to see the occasional training happening in Huntsville skies but there was an increased number of helicopters out, including multiple twin rotor Chinooks and an above average number of civilian copters. WTF News editor Baran Hines also noticed the uptick in activity over Huntsville.
— Brian Ray (@bamaray256) June 5, 2013
A strange blob on a radar image from Huntsville has sparked the imagination (read: conspiracy gene) of people on various social media sites.
The odd, yet colorful, blip was noticed Tuesday afternoon over the Redstone Arsenal and theories as to its origin began almost immediately.
Meteorologists have suggested that it could have been a false echo (later dismissed because of the size and duration of the image); or military “chaff” — a substance sprayed by aircraft to produce false radar echoes designed to confuse the guidance system in attacking missiles.
Some people have reported a strong chemical smell from the area under where the blob appears.
Al.com commenters have suggested several theories, everything from chemtrail from an airplane to construction dust to liberals.
A weather blog on TV station WAAY suggested it could be “some new kind of yet-to-be unclassified military chaff.”
Twitter users are going with the tried-and-true: alien invasion.
A Timeline via WHNT’s weather blog
10:15 PM Update: There is still no official word on what this radar anomaly over Huntsville is. It’s still there at 10:15 PM, though. Whatever it is, it’s showing less and less reflectivity by the minute, so it may dissipate soon.
If anyone fesses up to what it is, we’ll pass it on! I get the idea it’s nothing to be worried about; if it is something from the Arsenal, we may never know exactly what happened if it is indeed a test of some sort.
6:30 PM Update: Whatever it is, it’s still there!
The National Weather Service in Huntsville and some of UAHuntsville’s radar experts are collaborating to try to crack this mystery. If anyone can figure it out, it’ll probably be the folks at UAH. We’ll let you know when new information is available.
6:00 PM Update: Just got a note from Bill at Huntsville Utilities; they found no damage or strange frequency coming from the substation. Back to the drawing board…
We may never know what it is if it’s coming from a test at the Arsenal. Top secret stuff trumps our desire to know what’s going on.
4:50 PM Update: I just got off the phone with Bill Yell at Huntsville Utilities, and it appears that this mystery blob could be the result of a damaged substation in the Madison or West Huntsville area. Huntsville Utilities is sending out a person with a spectral analyzer to see if indeed there is some kind of frequency being generated at the substation that would “trick” the radar into thinking there is something there.
It may be later tonight or even tomorrow before we know if that is the cause, but since UAH has not seen anything resembling chaff, clouds, or anything else in their ceilometer readings, it sounds plausible at this point. Bill says there are no service problems in the area, so any “damage” at a substation could have been done by lightning weakening some of the components in last weekend’s storms.
In fact, Bill said RF interference created by a substation damaged by a lightning strike is not out of the ordinary, and it can do some strange things to sensors like radars, radios, etc.
We will see!
No, we don’t know what that blob on radar is over West Huntsville this afternoon. It’s centered near the northwest edge of Redstone Arsenal close to Zierdt Road and Madison Boulevard/I-565:
What we do know is there is no smoke, the sky is clear (underneath a few passing clouds), and it’s not rain.
My guess is that we won’t ever find out what it is because it’s probably a result of a military test.
If they tell us what it is, we’ll let you know!
After hours of radar analysis, I’m still not 100% sure what this mystery blob on radar Tuesday afternoon in West Huntsville is:
But I have a best guess… I think it’s some new kind of yet-to-be unclassified military chaff. Chaff is basically consists of tiny, highly reflective particles (often aluminum) which are sprayed from aircraft or naval ships to defer missiles from their target by creating false returns on radar. The product you’re looking at above is “reflectivity,” and it has high values (highly reflective to radar beam).. too high to be smoke, but about right for chaff.
Normally Chaff looks like this on radar:
But today’s “mystery blob” was originating from a point that was just about right over the Arsenal.. it started at about 1:36pm:
There were also reports of a Chinook helicopter flying around the area this afternoon. We called the Arsenal and they said they didn’t know about anything.
Since our station is on top of Monte Sano and we have a perfect view to the west/southwest toward the area this mystery reflectivity is covering, I’ve been looking out there periodically and snapping a few pictures… I noticed something when going through the pics…
Here’s a pic I snapped at about 3:18pm when the mystery blob was over West Huntsville (Pay attention to the buildings):
And here’s a pic I took at 5:26pm, when the mystery blob had spread over East Huntsville and whatever tiny “particles” were in the air had some time to possibly settle on buildings downtown and South Huntsville (again, pay attention to buildings):
Closer view at 5:18:
Seem a bit more “reflective?” I thought so. Now, I’m highly aware this can possibly be 100% attributed to the change in Sun angle, and it’s just a hunch but I could swear that those buildings don’t look like that normally (again, this could totally be the placebo effect).
Here’s a relatively new radar product called “ZDR” or “Differential Reflectivity.” It measures the horizontal and vertical reflectivity individually, then comes up with a number which is (ZDR = Horizontal – Vertical). So basically, positive values indicate horizontally oriented shapes and negative values indicate vertically shaped things.
In chaff, it’s common that the tiny particles be thin, paper-like particles (think tiny pieces of aluminum foil). If that’s what these particles were, you would expect air resistance to make the majority of them horizontally oriented (think dropping a piece of paper from a high building), and in turn, produce mostly positive values of ZDR.
After looking at the data that definitely WAS the case:
If you dropped a whole case of office paper from the top of a building, another thing you would expect to see is the occasional vertically shaped piece of paper (negative value) amongst lots of horizontally shaped ones (high positive value). Here’s an extreme closeup of an example of this (and there were plenty of these in this case):
Again, it’s entirely possible that I’m completely wrong, but after slaving over this all day, this is my best guess… some new kind of high tech, invisible chaff being tested that the government doesn’t want the word to get out on. It appeared to me that whatever this stuff was propogated upward from a point and spread slowly to the east. Maybe the Arsenal released it from the ground into the air. Maybe the helicopter was flying around in the chaff to see how good of a job it did masking its presence. This is purely a theory but I hope we find out what this is soon because I’ll probably lose sleep over it if we don’t
- Ari Sarsalari
Facebook: Ari Sarsalari
@AriWeather Might want to ask Redstone Arsenal: What was the V-22 was doing here today?
— BillBoggs (@BillBoggs) June 5, 2013
Maybe the military was moving some things in or out and wanted some cover also. There is ongoing construction on the Arsenal, some have speculated that structures on the northern side of the base may be in preparation for state of emergency provisions or more extreme situations given the lengthy railroad tracks paralleling Interstate 565 (think internment and resettlement). It is also speculated that there are vast underground structures on the base, possibly connections to the underground high speed train network. In the context of all that this site covers, it would be irresponsible to speculate further but if there is something sensitive being hidden, this is a place one could expect it to occur.
The military could have been experimenting with new chaff technology, lending weight to the increased helicopter activity. However when considering the reports of chemical odors, the picture is not so clear. It’s kind of like that time the US government sprayed heavily toxic, carcinogenic chemicals over St. Louis in the 1950′s and didn’t tell anyone. Trust the US government to tell you nothing or lie and then demand you like it because it is for your safety, which you are to never question since the notion that things could be done in the name of Uncle Sam that that are not specifically authorized by the public wing of this great country’s government is nonsensical such as this absurd run-on sentence which is perfectly placed at the end of this article to reiterate the fact that most people reading this have no clue what said government is actually up to because there are actually 3 (+?) governments in the form regular, classified US and shadow US. The mind of the average American, like their cars, only needs the lowest grade fuel anyway, right?