It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a storm? No, what is it then? - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a storm? No, what is it then?

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TUCSON - It looked like good downpours, and even a potential thunderstorm was occurring in Pinal County today if you looked at Doppler radar. But what you were actually seeing was something we call military chaff. 

We knew conditions weren't favorable for rain, and notice on the image the lack of cloud cover - you can't have rain without clouds. 

The military occasionally conducts tests in our desert and some of the particles can be detected on radar. The American Meteorological Society defines chaff as: 

Lightweight reflecting material, typically consisting of aluminum foil strips or metal-coated fibers, that is released in the atmosphere to produce radar echoes.

Initially developed as a military countermeasure, chaff is used in meteorological research to enable tracking of air motions in conditions with no natural airborne scatterers or to provide stronger echoes than those from natural scatterers.

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