Fake Radar Echoes Today

I don’t want to get the conspiracy theorists too excited, but this afternoon’s Portland radar shows a good example of “chaff”. 

Military aircraft training sometimes includes bits of metal or foil that are thrown out of airplanes to confuse ground radar.  It’s a countermeasure similar to those great scenes in the movie Hunt for Red October when the sub barely escapes the other Russian sub by dropping those packets to confuse the incoming torpedoes (Captain!  Vy are they trying to kill us!).  I have to admit I’m not an expert on this and gained what little knowledge I have from Jim Little when we worked together at KOIN-TV.  He was originally in the Air Force so he seemed to be in the know.  Of course if I say much else, I might get a visit from gentlemen in black suits and black SUV’s tomorrow morning at home, but obviously there was some sort of training offshore or over us today.

You can see the last of the leftover showers moving into the South Washington Cascades while the chaff (probably higher up) shoots by quickly overhead from NW to SE.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

41 Responses to Fake Radar Echoes Today

  1. bgb41 says:

    5/4/2011 Oregon (All) Temperature Summary

    High:88 at AGNESS2( 247 ft)
    Low: 55 at RED MOUND(1753 ft)

    High:41 at HOWARD Mt Howard(8150 ft)
    Low: 15 at DESCHUTES PORTAB (5100 ft )

    Largest Diurnal Change: 56 degrees
    COLGATE (76/20 ) (3293 ft )
    Horse Ridge (US (73/17) (4160 ft)

  2. Nice day for a hike, everything down low was very green…but hit some pretty decently (almost to my knee) deep snow at 1,500′.

    Drove over Oldman Pass by Mt. St. Helens and there was plenty of snow.

  3. Mike (Orchards 255') says:

    Up to a perfect 69 degrees today….

  4. Ben Randall says:

    Wow looks like Tillamook hit 64degrees according to Climate report

  5. 70???

    Not here…69.3 is my high so far. West winds are picking up now. Had a low of 33.3 this morning with frost for sure.

  6. Ben Randall says:

    63 degrees going to be the high for Tillamook

  7. Boydo3 N. Albany 500' says:

    Glancing at the N America April snow coverage map, it looks to me that the Cascades are incorrectly represented as being way below average. Somebody from Rutgers needs to take trip out here and get it right!

  8. Rob "Wrath" S.E. Portland says:

    68.9 PERFECT 10/10 Rating, 5 Stars, 3 Golden Chickens, 1 injured Kobe Bryant type of day!

  9. Kyle From Silverton says:

    Aurora Oregon also had a low of 39F this morning just like my thermo.

    Aurora’s temps seems to be very similar to mine in a creepy way.

    Aurora had a low of 19F this February and the geography is very hilly there.

  10. Kyle From Silverton says:

    As for the weather station in Norway street that area is located in a valley dip which during hard freezes would be a prime spot for cold air.

    The only explanation for my warm readings is due to being up on a hill so all the cold air sinks into the valleys and ponds.

  11. Kyle From Silverton says:

    Why is my therometer so warm these mornings?

    I have been 39F at 8:00 am but by judging everyone elses therometers mine is off somehow but it’s not electronic and it’s not in the sun.

  12. Ben Randall says:

    61 so far for tillamook

  13. bgb41 says:


    This is an open group on facebook with currently 57 people in the group. Everyone is welcome to join.


  14. JohnL says:

    Government/airforce testing is rumored over this area.

    Does anyone remember the Goo falling from the sky in Oakville, Washington in the 90’s?

    This happens to be the same area- the strange radar echos are showing up.

  15. Rob "Wrath" S.E. Portland says:

    *Looks at calender* [May 4th] okay… 35 outside and my Weather Station shows SNOW for the 24 hour Forecast Outlook. You have to be kidding me….

    Oh, btw 6Z GFS after the 11th it looks excellent for a week straight! Only to painfully watch the 12z today slam the door on that idea! 😆 😀 🙂 😉 😛

  16. bgb41 says:

    5/3/2011 Oregon (All) Temperature Summary

    High:70 at AGNESS2( 247 ft) & AGNESS2(247 ft) & BROOKINGS(79 ft) & DW5789 Eagle Poi(1463 ft)
    Low: 49 at Heppner Jct.(312 ft)

    High:26 at HOWARD Mt Howard(8150 ft)
    Low: 16 at CRAZYMAN FLAT (6100 ft ) & MT. HOWARD (7910 ft )

    Largest Diurnal Change: 40 degrees
    Pine Ridge (60/20 ) (4220 ft )

    Heaviest Rainfall:
    0.24″ at TIDEWATER(2035ft)
    0.22″ at Government Camp(3600ft)

  17. Kyle From Silverton says:

    It’s actually funny how the Feb artic blast was MUCH MUCH colder then the November blast for me in which I went down to the low 20s briefly in NOV but in late FEB I went down to 16F and sub 40F highs. 😮

  18. W7ENK says:

    A buddy of mine was in the Navy for over 10 years as an EW – based out of Coronado – an expert at radio and radar systems. He laughed when I showed him this a few minutes ago.

    He just told me the military doesn’t drop chaff over populated areas, only out at sea, because dropping metal confetti into powerlines usually doesn’t go over very well. This happened in the hills above San Diego several years ago when he was active. He said the wind shifted and the chaff they were working with off the coast began drifting inland, which knocked out power for about a million people and started several wildfires. He also told me that during the “opening ceremonies” of both Gulf Wars, the military spread chaff over Baghdad to deliberately knock out the power before they began bombing.

    Depending on the wavelength of the radar the military is operating, chaff can be anywhere from postage stamp sized squares to strips of aluminum several feet long. Because of the frequency they operate at, in order for NWS doppler radar to pick up chaff, it would have to be at least a 10cm long, likely a larger multiple of that. Generally, anything smaller than that won’t show up unless it’s made of or contains water because of the way water “resonates” at the radar’s frequency.

    Now that being said, it’s not impossible, but it is fairly unlikely that this radar return was due to military chaff. I wonder, were there any reports of random power outages up in the counties of SW Washington today?

    Another explanation for this anomaly would be what’s called “tropospheric ducting”. It usually happens over the ocean and in very humid climates, but it’s been known to happen from time to time here in the PNW. This phenomenon would likely produce strange false returns much like these in your image.

    From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tropospheric_propagation

    Tropospheric ducting is a type of radio propagation that tends to happen during periods of stable, anticyclonic weather. In this propagation method, when the signal encounters a rise in temperature in the atmosphere instead of the normal decrease (known as a temperature inversion), the higher refractive index of the atmosphere there will cause the signal to be bent. Tropospheric ducting affects all frequencies, and signals enhanced this way tend to travel up to 800 miles (1,300 km) (though some people have received “tropo” beyond 1,000 miles / 1,600 km), while with tropospheric-bending, stable signals with good signal strength from 500+ miles (800+ km) away are not uncommon when the refractive index of the atmosphere is fairly high.

    One last thing: Here’s an image I captured from NWS Medford’s radar back on January 15, 2003 while I was living down in Klamath Falls. Same kind’a thing, probably not chaff.

    • W7ENK says:

      Also, notice in my video as the streaks move away there’s a large return far to the NNE, just to the South of Bend. If I’m not mistaken, it’s a terrain return off Paulina Peak, but unusually strong for the distance – almost 200 miles. Ducting is the only thing that would effectively produce this.

    • Jory (Sandy & Downtown Portland) says:

      The chaff gets released well out over the ocean. But it’s light enough, and there is enough wind, to carry it to and over land.

    • Jory (Sandy & Downtown Portland) says:

      And don’t forget, Washington State has several large militairy bases, plus several carrier groups based there.

      Ever been on a carrier? AWESOMELY HUGE!

    • W7ENK says:

      Yes, I have been on a carrier. They are massive!

  19. *BoringOregon* says:

    I got your back mark!!

  20. I want a week of sunny and warm, July can’t come soon enough!

  21. Garron near Wash. Sq. says:

    Yep Jim is a great legend in these parts. Glad I got to meet him, when he was on KGW. I thought that Mark and Jim came from the same mold. They both are so enthusiastic about the weather, neither one hyping weather for ratings, just the facts and interesting tid bits. I never thought we’d be lucky enough to find a replacement to the great Jim Little, but along came Mr. Nelsen. Thanks also for the heads up….They’re probably doing the training to throw off the enemy attack from the Cylons’ revenge for Osama’s slaying!

  22. Sifton says:

    Jim is da Man!! Yeah I saw/heard some jets taking off today around 8AM.

  23. Jake-(Gresham) says:

    Thought you guys might all take an interest to this as well:


  24. PaulBeaverton says:

    Jim Little was the man!!! But now you are Mark!!! First?

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