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Callout diaries are against the rules, so I won't use names or links, but I will provide links upon request. Since May, there have been diaries posted by a user perpetuating conspiracy theories about weather modification. Not regular weather modification, nope, but "the US Government is controlling the weather via weather radar" modification. Yeah. If you've read even one of my weather diaries, you know that would I have a bit of a problem with this.

The theories aren't a rampant problem on this site, but I want to address it anyhow because they've been posted enough to where I've gotten numerous emails/message about the veracity of these claims.

They're bunk. Bogus. Doppler radar is not and cannot be used to control or modify the weather. The term used by this person is "radar anomaly" -- a glitch or strange blip in the radar suspected of modifying precipitation in an area.

Common Radar "Anomalies" And Their Causes.

Radar Spikes



Sunset spike on the Pittsburgh PA radar.

These beams can be caused by a number of things. The most common causes are airplanes (since many radar sites are close to airport runways), large downtown buildings, or the sunrise and sunset. They are not "beam attacks." They are not energy spikes sent out to strengthen storms. They're just objects and waves messing with the radar returns. Less dramatic spikes can be caused by hailstorms.

Here are more of those radar spikes, perfectly aligned in the direction of the sunset:


They're all pointed towards Mecca. Coincidence? I think not.

Here's a detailed scientific explanation for the twice daily appearance of radar spikes.

Here's a NOAA link showing how wind farms can also cause false radar returns.

Fuzzy Rings

Fuzzy rings around radars are usually caused by two things -- birds and bugs, or something called "anomalous propagation."

The rings usually show up around sunrise and sunset, around the same time that birds fly around and feast on flying insects. This is called "ground clutter." If you've ever watched birds fly around at night, you know there can be thousands of them in clouds for as far as the eye can see (if you're in the right spot). This picks up on radar, and causes that funny snow-looking stuff.


Common ground clutter (Clutterus Weathermodificatus if you want to be specific).

Anomalous propagation is when there is an inversion above the surface (temperatures get warmer with height), and this layer of warmer air bends the radar beam back towards the surface. The beam hits the surface and bounces back to the radar, giving a false return.


Anomalous propagation...false radar returns along the TX/OK border (upper part of the image).

Radar Rings

Radar rings show up because the radar sweeps in a circular pattern, and as it sweeps, it gets higher in altitude. In a solid shield of precipitation, you can see the ring the radar beam detects. It happens on all radars and is usually filtered out by whoever produces the radar image. For most radar sites, I've found that it appears about 80 miles out from the radar site, at an altitude of about 8100-8300 feet. There's a complicated explanation for it, but it's a property (and inherent) flaw in the properties of Doppler radar.


Radar ring on base velocity image from Wakefield VA tonight.

Also, there's a dead zone for about a mile around the radar site where it's too close to accurately detect precipitation at the immediate radar site.


Dead zone for a mile around the KAKQ (Wakefield VA) radar site.

There you have it. There's the cause of the mythical radar anomalies that the government is sending out to create severe weather have caused so much dismay among the internet tin foilers.

The user in question has asked me repeatedly to stop "haranguing" her about this issue, stating that she is "just asking questions." The answer is no. As someone who is pro-science, I feel it's my responsibility to combat anti-science when I see it. Conspiracy theories aren't allowed on DailyKos. I've answered the "questions" numerous times, and I know a few other users have tried to shine light on the CT. There's a line between just asking questions and peddling a conspiracy theory. This line was crossed a long time ago.

7:52 PM PT: Another quirk with radars...I'm so close to the Mobile Airport (and its weather radar) that it's not picking up the fact that it's pouring here right now. The line up towards Chickasaw and Prichard actually extends down to the Gulf, but proximity to the radar is drowning that out.



Originally posted to El Blogo de Weatherdudeo on Sat Feb 04, 2012 at 07:37 PM PST.

Also republished by Science Matters and SciTech.

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