Mysterious clouds spotted on radar explained

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Butterfly-Shaped Cloud Spotted Over St. Louis Has a Surprising Explanation

On a recent morning in early September, something strange popped up on the doppler radar maps over New Jersey. The National Weather Service meteorologist Michael Gorse told ScientificAmerican.com that these green and blue blobs were not thunderstorms but in fact birds taking off at sunrise.

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He added they were likely swallows and martins -- because of the previous day's migration patterns. The following week, a butterfly-shaped cloud over St. Louis showed up radar that was coincidentally from a giant swarm of monarch butterflies.

NWS said the changing shape of the radar image came from the flapping of the butterflies' small wings. Doppler radar picks up these sorts of objects -- a bird, a bug, or a raindrop -- when they bounce off the path of the radio wave pulse sent out by the radar.

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