The C band weather radars of today are sensitive enough to record clear air echos from the boundary layer during the warmer seasons even in latitudes as high as Scandinavia. Such clear air echos have long been recognised in the US and a.o. used to retrieve the wind. Curiously enough, in Europe there has been, and perhaps still is, a wide spread belief among meteorologists that boundary layer clear air echos are absent there. The probable reason is that since European weather radars are almost only used to monitor precipitation, in most countries weak echos, supposed not to represent precipitation, are suppressed. This may be performed in many ways, for instance by using the STC (Sensitivity Time Control, also called Swept Gain) which suppresses echos close to the radar, or by thresholding weak echos in the radar images used. The threshold is usually about 10 dBz, and since most clear air echos are weaker, they do not appear in the images, though the radar rnight have recorded them.
That these clear air echos actually are echos from the air, as from sharp refractive index gradients, insects or birds, is evident since Doppler radars show that they move, generally approximately with the winds recorded by other means. The exceptions are from targets heading towards a specific goal, as rnigrating birds, birds leaving a nocturnal roost and locust swarms.
The concept 'clear air echos' refers to echos from a non-precipitating atmosphere. There is no commonly agreed stringent definition of clear air echos.