Jesse Ferrell

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3-D Radar of Mystery Object That Hit Louisiana

October 16, 2012; 9:45 AM ET

UPDATE: 1:00 PM: The NWS has confirmed this explanation, but instead of posting an update to their story, they changed it, which is going to whip the conspiracy theorists into a frenzy:

UPDATE: 10:00 AM: This article says that it was an explosion, so maybe we are seeing the smoke/debris cloud drifting (NWS says it was moving @ 10 mph which is too slow for a meteor anyway). Since I had previously blogged about a smoke trail from a meteor appearing on radar, a smoke trail seems the likely culprit (besides, a meteor itself would be too small to be detected unless it caused mega damage). As a commenter points out below, "They design those bunkers to explode up and not out so the energy of nearly the entire explosion gets captured in this snapshot."

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ORIGINAL BLOG (9:30 AM:) The NWS in Shreveport published a story and some radar images this morning about a mystery object, saying "There is a lot of speculation about what might have occurred, but regardless of what occurred, a large flash was observed, citizens were shaken out of bed and windows were shattered during the late night hours October 15th." I pulled some 3D radar images from GRLevelX software this morning:

Above is a 3D image with the lower reflectivity colors transparent so you can see the most dense part of the object. Here's the same with the 25dBZ reflectivity level outlined (meaning that the "hollow" part is >25dBZ):

But before you scream "UFO" (or even "Meteor!"), remember we're using the software to "smooth" the data here. The actual data looks like this:

So you can see that, although we do have a few different horizontal layers we're looking at (the 2-D shots here are at 1.5 degrees elevation, where the signal was the strongest), clearly the software is estimating a spherical object by rounding off the corners (and in 3D mode, the strongest return (yellow) is blended out completely).

I'm sure we'll know more later today, but my quick observations this morning: This was a significant object, showing up at a reflectivity of 42 dBZ (which would normally be "moderate rain") but it is also a very small object, when seen in comparison to the radar screen:

Occam's Razor says that it was a meteorite, but I'm sure the conspiracy theories will abound today.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or AccuWeather.com

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Jesse Ferrell
Jesse Ferrell's WeatherMatrix blog covers extreme weather worldwide with a concentration on weather photos and Social Media.