The Anomalist


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  The North Newark UFO Case:
Anatomy of a Journalistic Investigation


Was it? I called David Robinson, the state climatologist for New Jersey, who looked up the weather records for Newark on March 5. "High of 48," he says, "low of 34, no precipitation. That morning they had two inches [of snow] on the ground. On March 6th there was a trace of precipitation. From the look at these records, the day looks pretty tame." He then checked another set of records. "High pressure building over the area on Saturday night will keep skies fair until Sunday morning," he reads, then adds: "Looks like the weather was clear."

"I would reasonably guess that there was not a thunder event, unless I can find in the record one of those squalls that popped into the area that evening. That can happen sometimes, a leftover squall can pop in. It's not out of the question to have isolated lighting in one of those squalls. But they tend to be pretty rare because snow squalls tend not to have a lot of the vertical cloud development you need to get that discharge. So it's kind of unlikely. And it appears in this case there was nothing in the nature of a squall line or anything like that. So I would say that chances are it was not a lightning event. There must be some other explanation. But I won't hazard a guess as to what that might or might not be."

American Radio Relay League

Then there was the matter of all the radio interference reported by the various ham operators that night. Was there anything to it? "I never heard anything remotely resembling this," says Edward Hare, lab supervisor at the American Radio Relay League, an organization of amateur radio operators, "but stranger things have happened in life." Because the ham-radio operators reported different types of interference that night, Hare believes the phenomena are unrelated.

"But I can imagine some various combinations of things that could cause any one of them," he says. The squealing could be a malfunctioning radio. The "receiving-while-transmitting" interference he calls a "radio defect'" unless "some strong local signal had gotten into the power lines, caused perhaps by a CBer with a powerful mobile amplifier driving by at the time." As far as the "dead radio" interference, perhaps that was caused by a Sudden lonospheric Disturbance (SID) caused by a solar flare. "A sudden change in the ionosphere can result in the normal HF, or high frequency, propagation virtually disappearing. This can last a few minutes or a few hours. Some SlDs can be fairly local in effect, others can be virtually worldwide." A check of the data for the week preceding March 5th showed stable solar conditions, however.

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