I snapped this a few minutes ago, looking west from Santa Monica:
I snapped this a few minutes ago, looking west from Santa Monica:
It’s been interesting weather here in Los Angeles, as a couple of storm systems have rolled through we’ve had some days of nice looking clouds, and some days with lots of contrails. I snapped this one this morning:
It shows a contrail from the lower left that then turns into a distrail on the upper right, cutting through a layer of clouds.
Either by day or a little after sunset, in fine weather, a little, light, long-drawn cloud is seen, like a long very straight line.
- Aristotle, Meteorologica, 340BC
Not every long straight line in the sky is a contrail. Here Aristotle suggests it’s “a sort of wave-mark in the air”. Basically an isolated row cloud, low on the horizon.
Aristotle’s take on the weather is very interesting. He has quite an extensive section on atmospheric optics – halos, sundogs, etc. Pretty advanced for 2347 years ago.
Some conspiracy theorists think that persistent spreading contrails indicate some kind of deliberate aerial spraying, probably by the government. They speculate as to what could be in these trails, and one of the most common things they claim is barium.
Some people are so obsessed by this idea that they have rainwater tested to see if it has barium in it. They usually find some, and then trumpet this as evidence that their theory is correct.
Unfortunately they are wrong. I’ll explain why, but first, some basic science.
Some people think that persistent spreading contrails are somehow unusual, and are actually something dangerous being deliberately sprayed on the US people by the government, or perhaps for weather control purposes. They call these persistent contrails “chemtrails”.
Some of them are very insistent that this is a practically constant assault, saying the sky is never blue any more, and there are “chemtrails” constantly criss-crossing the sky.
I’ve talked about distrails and hole punch clouds before, but I’ve actually never seen one myself until this morning, when I saw two side by side. It’s quite rare to have this kind of weather condition in Los Angeles. I took a couple of photos at around 7:30AM today, Aug 19th, 2007. Santa Monica ATIS reports the sky is clear now, but Van Nuys reports broken cloud at 18,000 feet and 28,000,which is probably where these are, given they look like they are precipitating ice in artificial cirrus uncinus. The cloud layer that the holes formed in is cirrocumulus.
There was an interesting post over on the New York SkyWatch blog, which raised many of the common questions that people have about various contrail anomalies. I’ve attempted to answer all of the questions here:
Question #1, why [do] jet contrails appear as if the jet engine is being deliberately turned on and off?
It’s because the jet is flying through uneven areas of temperature and humidity. Explained here
Question #2, Explain why jet aircraft are leaving persistent contrails in grid patterns?
Because some jets fly north-south, and some east-west on airways that are several miles wide, and where they cross you get a grid. Winds at altitude blow at around 90mph, and these blow the trails across the sky, increasing the size of the grid.
Question #3, Shouldn’t the entire sky be filled with contrails? Would we ever see any truly blue sky again if all jets left persistent contrails behind?
Sometimes there are a lot of contrails, and they do spread out and cover the sky. Sometimes there are only a few. Sometimes there are none. It depends on the weather. There are only a certain number of jets flying overhead every day. They have to be at the right altitude for contrails to form. In some weather conditions this is limited to only the highest jets, or sometimes just jets in a narrow band of humid air. On very cold humid days you will see a lot of contrails, but no more than the number of jet at altitude.
Question #4, I know that contrails are formed under certain weather conditions and altitudes. However, there are times when conditions do not exist for contrails to persist?
Then they will not persist. The problem here is that it is incredibly difficult to know what the humidity is at a specific time, altitude and location. Humidity measurements are done by sending up a balloon every 12 hours from weather stations 300 miles apart, the balloon can be blown hundreds of miles in a random direction during its ascent. How can you get an accurate local humidity reading at a specific time and place from a balloon reading 6 hours ago and 300 miles away, when humidity can vary enough for contrails to form or not form in as little as half a mile (as you can see from the broken contrails), and humidity can vary by 50% over the course of a day?
Question #5, Certain contrails even look like they are laden with chemicals. You know the ones I mean. The ones that appear to drip by the weight of their own substance, mushrooming along the bottom edge of the trail. C’mon what’s in this stuff. It doesn’t even look like ordinary condensation to me?
They are called “pendules”, as seen in this pre-1991 photo, and described by Schaefer and Day in 1981. When a plane flies through the air at 500mph it creates wake turbulance, which is made up of wake vortices, (whirlpools of air), at regular intervals. These vortices make the contrail clump up in areas of greater and lesser density. In a dense persistent contrail, the vortices will produce the clumping pendules seen in the first photo. If the contrail is thin or not persistent, then they can leave interesting patterns which can resemble smoke rings. The type and visibility of the vortices will depend on the the size, shape and speed of the jet, as well as the turbulence and density of the air it is moving through.
Question #6, Speaking of abnormal, I have seen jets emitting contrails that are dark in appearance. I assumed that it might be the lighting conditions until I saw the black and white contrails side by side – check out this video?
I covered this in the “dark lines” article. It is the lighting conditions, the dark contrail is in shadow, and when you see contrails “side by side”, the lighter contrail could well be ten miles behind (or a mile above) the darker contrail, and so not in shadow.
Question #7, Another interesting aspect to these dark trails is that the material drifts to the ground in clouds that resemble the black smoke from a nearby fire. I have observed this process several times in the fall. I haven’t seen them since the beginning of the year?
Precipitation falling from clouds will look dark if it is in shadow, which is probably will be if the shadow is caused at sunset by a hill or cloud bank.
Question #8, And then there’s the other trails that appear to swallow up other trails and clouds. One of my YouTube videos shows this quite clearly. My first impression was that someone had a HUGE washcloth and scrubbed a portion of the sky. And then I saw jets going through the cloud mass and the contrails that were left created lines in the mass that expanded and left the cloud in sections.
This effect was observed in 1944, it’s basically a distrail, which is the opposite of a contrail, the cloud contains moisture, and the added moisture, particulates and turbulence of the jet passing through makes the amount of moisture in the air too great for it to exist as a cloud, so it precipitates as snow or rain. This wipes away the cloud where the contrail has been. This can also happen with cloud layers that are below the contrail, as precipitation from the contrail falls on the cloud layer. This is also known as “hole punch clouds” and “fallstreak holes“. Distrails can combine with the vortices of question 5, as in the photo on the right.
I hope I’ve answered all these questions. If you feel there is still something unclear, or you have extra questions, then please leave a comment below.
*UPDATE* Some more questions were raised in the comments, and I’ll add them here, with answers.
Question #9, On your website you have a picture of one jet leaving a “chemtrail” with another jet at the same altitude in the background is not leaving one. I have seen jets side by side and one leaving a normal contrail and another leaving a chemtrail?
See this post for a full discussion.
There are two possibilities. either the jets are not at the same altitude, and just look like they are because of the viewing angle, or they have different engines with different exhaust characteristics. The more efficient an engine is, the more likely it is to leave a lasting contrail, as there is more water in the exhaust. The photo on the right shows an Airbus A340 (maiden flight: 1991) on the left, leaving contrails, and a Boeing 707 (maiden flight: 1957) not leaving contrails. Both are flying at 33,000 feet (part of a German test to study contrail formation), but the newer engines of the A340 produce more water vapor.
Questions #10, How do you explain pictures of aircraft spraying chemtrails from ports other than the engines?
It’s an optical illusion. The contrails come from the engines. Engine exhausts contain a lot of water, which (combined with the water in the air), condenses, freezes and causing the contrail. Because it’s hot when it exits the engine, it takes a fraction of a second to condense and freeze (in 40 below temperatures). So it begins to freezes about 100 feet behind the engines, which makes it look like it’s coming from the ends of the tail section. This illusion is stronger on a shorter two-engine plane – look at the inner engines on the picture on the right. Since it’s a four engined 747 (240 foot long), the contrails form before the tail section, but with shorter planes such as a 767-300 (180 foot long) the contrails would be forming about at the tips of the tail section when viewed from below (although they are actually well underneath the tail, as you can see in the close-up).
In very humid conditions, the turbulence caused by the aircraft itself can cause moisture in the air to condense, and hence freeze. This happens in areas of low pressure above the wing, and in the wingtip vortices, so you can get what looks like a solid sheet of contrail from the wing, and thin streamers from the wing tips (and maybe the tail), combined a bit further back with the engine contrails, as in the photo on the right. These low-pressure wing contrails can form at any altitude, given the right humidity, and account for the tales of planes landing “still spraying”.
Question #11, How do you explain scientists testing the fallout and finding aluminum, barium, nano particles, fungus, molds, viruses, etc in the mix?
They did not test contrails, they just tested some stuff they found on the ground, with no indication that it was connected with contrails (it would take several days for aerosolized matter to reach the ground, and by that time it would have been spread hundreds of miles from the original site). Most of the things they claim to have found are things that naturally occur in air and dirt.
Contrails are clouds made from water vapor that condenses then freezes behind a plane engine. Since the engines are on constantly, it seems a bit odd when you see contrails with gaps in them, or even contrails that stop and start. If the engine is pumping out a constant amount of water, then why is the trail not constant? This puzzle is sometimes seized on by people who think that persistent contrails are actually “chemtrails”, or some kind of deliberate spraying operation.
People who think persistent contrails indicate some kind of conspiracy (which they call “chemtrails”), sometime point to the “dark lines” that sometimes accompany contrails. Since they can’t immediately think of why these dark lines should be there, they assume it’s part of the conspiracy. Either there is some kind of “dark chemtrail”, or the plane is projecting a dark beam of some kind of negative energy, or it is following a dark beam.
In reality these “dark lines” or “black beams” are simply various kinds of shadows. There are actually three main kinds of dark line related to contrails.
Where the contrail itself is in shadow and appears dark. This can happen a number of ways. The sun can be low on the horizon and the contrail can be shadowed by a mountain or a thick cloud bank (such as in this video). In rare cases the plane can be flying directly towards the sun, and the contrail will shadow itself. When self-shadowing, the leading edge of the contrail will be brightly lit, with a dark area behind it, such as parts of the contrail above.
The contrail is simply casting a shadow on a layer of cloud beneath it. The cloud layer is thin enough so you can see through it, but it’s visible, so you can see the shadow on it. Theoretically you could cast a shadow on a cloud layer above or behind a contrail, if the sun were low enough, but this would be rather difficult to observe. Most “dark lines” are of this type. There’s an excellent explanation of these shadows over at Atmospheric Optics.
There’s nothing new about such shadows. Here’s some from 1955:
One interesting thing about these shadows is that it frequently looks like the contrail is below the clouds, when it’s actually above them. You can see this illusion in the photo above. The reason this happens is that the white of the thin layer of clouds and the contrail are additively transparent, so they look identical, regardless of which one is in front of the other. The illusion happens because the brain interprets the bluer regions of the cloud as being darker regions in the same plane as the cloud, when they are actually holes in the cloud.The contrail will seem solid white when viewed through the holes, or when it is in front of the holes.
The most interesting type of contrail dark line is when the contrail is lined up with the sun. This produces a slice of shadow through the atmosphere that looks like a dark line when viewed edge-on. It is quite difficult to visualize what is going on since you have to think in three dimensions, and we are accustomed to thinking of shadows as being flat, since they are usually cast on surfaces. You are not seeing a thin dark shadow here, you are actually seeing a huge slab of very faint shadow, but it’s viewed from looking along the edge. Imagine you have a thick sheet of glass. Viewed head on, it’s transparent, but if you look at it from the edge, it seems a lot darker.
The above image is an excellent demonstrating of the fleeting nature of these edge shadows. Two photos taken just a few minutes apart, int the first the camera is more fully in line with the plane of the contrail. In the second the contrail (or the photographer) has moved, and we are viewing the edge shadows from a slight angle which reveals they are made up of two or three segments, caused either by the plane turning slightly, or variations in upper level winds bending the contrail.
Most photos of these odd shadows don’t include the sun. But when they do, you’ll see that the sun is lined up with the contrail (or part of it)
The photo on the right is a rather dramatic illustration of this effect. The “dark line” here is caused by the slab of shadow cast by the portion of the upper part of the exhaust trail of the space shuttle Atlantis that is lined up roughly in a flat plane with the camera and the sun. The sun has just set, so the rays of the sun are almost parallel to the ground, so the upper portion of the plume is casting a long tall shadow through the air towards the horizon. This is viewed edge on from below, and so looks like a dark line. Since it’s a full moon, the sun is directly opposite the moon, so the “shadow” looks like it’s pointing at the moon (if you look closely, you’ll see it continues past the moon). This is particularly dramatic because of the combination of the setting sun and a vertical exhaust trail. With normal contrails, the sun has to be higher in the sky to cast the slab of shadow downwards.
The image above is another great illustration. There are multiple contrails, but only the one that intersects the sun creates the edge shadow. Photo from “Col” on usenet uk.sci.weather.
[UPDATE] This video I shot in my kitchen gives an excellent illustration of these types of shadow.
[Math Warning] It’s a bit difficult to explain these edge shadows (also called volumetric shadows). You can think of them in terms of three dimensional geometry. The contrail is a line in three dimensional space. The camera (or observer) is a point in three dimensional space. The sun is essentially infinitely far away, and so is only really relevant as a directional vector (a vector in three dimensions, where the magnitude is unimportant ). These three quantities are what you need to consider to understand the condition for the edge shadow.
Given the line (contrail) and direction vector (sun) we can form a plane that contains the line, and is parallel to the direction vector. This plane cuts through the contrail, the atmosphere, and intersects the ground. Projecting two end points of the contrail along the plane in the direction of the sun’s vector, we get essentially a two dimensional parallelepiped (although the far edge is not very well defined). This parallelepiped is quite thin (it’s as thick as the contrail), so when viewed from the side, you won’t see much. But when the viewer is in the plane of the parallelepiped – specifically anywhere along the line on the ground formed by the intersection with the plane formed by the contrail and the sun – then they will be viewing the parallelepiped from edge-on, and so it will seem to be a dark line that intersects the contrail.
Since only the portion of the contrail that is roughly within this plane is contributing to the shadow, there may be other potions of the contrail that are not in the the plane, and hence do not seem to be casting a shadow. In fact they are, but since it is in a different plane, they are not visible unless the viewer was to move to a new position. This can be seen in the two photos above. In one it looks as if the plane was following a dark line, and then veered off. In the Shuttle photo, the highest portion of the trail, although brightly illuminated, is not contributing to the visible shadow. However a viewer in another location may have been able to see a different edge shadow trailing from this upper portion.
[Update] I found a useful video of an contrail edge shadow (or “volumetric” shadow, described above):
It’s all in one shot, which is great, as you can see how the various misinterpretations can arise. It starts out with a shot of a black line across the sky, with no visible reason for it being there. The sun is obscure by the house on the right.
The cameraman then zooms in in the dark line, and we see a contrail being formed along it. It looks like the plane is following the dark line, or somehow projecting a beam of dark energy in front of it!
Then the cameraman walks around the house, and we see the source of the dark line – the contrail is EXACTLY lined up with the setting sun, and is simply casting a volumetric shadow which the cameraman is lined up with. The shadow is accented as the suns rays are nearly parallel to the contrail. Here I’ve stitched some frames together so you can see this. I encourage you to examine the video to confirm this.
[Update 2] Check out this video of the Space Shuttle launch, a dark shadow forms in the last 30 seconds:
[Update 3] Crepuscular rays are parallel, but usually don’t look it. This is partly why the contrail edge shadows are not recognized as the same type of thing.
view of crepuscular rays from space:
How high are those contrails? That’s a very important issue if you are investigating the science of contrail formation. I’ve been thinking for a while that a good method might be to take photos at a plane at a known focal length on a digital camera, and then by measuring the pixels of a known dimension of the plane (the length, or the wingspan), then you could calculate the height.
So I was delighted to find that someone had already done just this, in an article titled: “Points to Ponder: Calculate the altitude of aircraft using a digital camera“. They had worked out the math, and even given a little calculator.
Given this photo, which is an enlargement of the inset:
I’ve collected together a few photos of persistent spreading contrails from the past from 1991 back to 1940, just to show that this is nothing new, and that skies exactly like those shown on the “chemtrails” conspiracy web sites have been happening for the past 60 years. Mostly these are just photos I found on the internet, but several, like the first four, are scanned from books, so can be physically verified.
1991, From the book Peterson First guide to Clouds and Weather
Here are four photos of contrails, scanned from the book. You can see these photos on the Amazon page linked above. Click on the photos for larger versions. I suspect the actual date of these photos is pre-1991, but that’s certainly the latest possible date.
Several planes look a little odd, or have attachments that look odd, and so some people feel they must be part of a decades long conspiracy to spray stuff into the atmosphere to alter the weather or reduce the population. That’s obviously nonsense, but what are these strange planes?
[Update: there are many other photos like the "barrel" interior below, I've collected a lot of them on Metabunk]
Here’s one making the rounds, scary looking barrels, and a sign on the wall that possibly says “Hazmat inside”
What is it? It’s a Boeing 777-200LR Worldliner, specifically it’s WD001, a plane that was used for flight testing. The original photo can be found here – note the “Hazmat” text was added later. The barrels contain water, which is pumped around to shift the center of gravity to test various flight characteristics.
Here’s a description of a similar setup from the 2002 book, “Inside Boeing, Building the 777″, page 76., describing tests done in 1994.
From Boeing’s blog:
Remember, we test at the extremes of the weight/CG envelope. This requires us to control the CG during ground and flight conditions. We can move weight, in the form of water, forward or aft with the use of the water ballast system. This system is comprised of 48 barrels, each capable of carrying 460 pounds, connected by tubing to a pump. A computerized system tracks fuel placement, fuel burn, people placement, ballast, flap setting, landing gear position and water barrel quantity. The information is processed to display the airplane’s current CG. We move water or specify fuel tank usage to configure the CG within the specified test requirements.
Why are there overhead luggage compartments? It’s a test plane, and for FAA certification they have to demonstrate that everything works. That includes stuff like the emergency oxygen system, and more minor things like the luggage compartments. It’s a requirement that they don’t pop open in flight – so that needs to be tested. They are also handy for stowing the engineers’ stuff.
Here’s some pictures from Boeing:
And a lot more photos can be found on Boeing’s site.
This one gets a lot of use in the “chemtrail” forums:
Particularly because of the unusual collections of pipes sticking out in various places. There’s those two at the front, and then there is a group over the wing. Here’s some close ups
Very sinister looking tubes, but why are half of them facing the wrong way?
The plane is not for spraying the atmosphere, it’s for sampling the atmosphere. It’s a research aircraft, registration N701BN, operated by th e department of energy’s national labs. It’s pretty much one of a kind, so it’s hardly likely to be responsible for all the persistent contrails we see every day. The research is mostly on pollutants in the atmosphere, particularly from coal and oil burning power plants. But they also investigate the properties of clouds, which includes contrails.
Here’s another photo you see in “chemtrail” videos, with the implied suggestion that it’s some kind of evil spraying device:
Actually it IS a spraying device, but quite innocuous. It’s on an NKC-135A (55-3128) with the refueling boom modified to spray water. This used by the air force to test icing of planes in flight.
Here’s the original photo:
Here’s some more details:
This plane is quite interesting:
It’s an E-6B “Tacamo”. This photo shows it dumping fuel (photo from tacamo.org). The E-6B is used by the United States Strategic Command as an airborne communication center. You can see the navy logo on the right wing. The E-6B is a modified version of the Boeing 707-320, and the fuel vents have been moved from the wing tips to between the fuselage and the engines in order to separate it from the communication equipment in the wing tips. This is what the wing-tip ESM/SATCOM pod looks like:
It looks like this odd assemblage is also creating some wingtip vortex contrails as well. The plane is pretty much all white, which is something you hear mentioned from time to time in “chemtrail” conspiracy theories.
Here’s another photo of the same plane, taken from a “chemtrail” YouTube video:
It shows the opening and drogue for the ELF trailing wire antenna. This is a very long wire antenna that is extended behind the plane for several hundred feet and used for communications with submarines. The “drogue” is just a cone-shaped weight. Here’s a close-up
This plane also looks at first glance like it might be dumping fuel (click image for full sized photo):
But the trails are actually coming from six smoke generators. It was part of a NASA test to study wake vortices, you can read about it here:
Six smoke generators were installed under the wings of the 747 to provide a visual image of the trailing vortices. The object of the experiments was to test different configurations and mechanical devices on the747 that could be used to break up or lessen the strength of the vortices. The results of the tests could lead to shorter spacing between landings and takeoffs, which, in turn, could alleviate air-traffic congestion.
Here’s another image of the same plane:
This plane also occasionally get brought up in chemtrail conspiracy groups:
This is obviously not a contrail, it’s far too low and the trail is dropping too rapidly.
Here’s a video of it in action, titled “B747 chemtrails”. It’s interesting reading the comments, as the first comment correctly identifies what it is, and then everyone else just ignores that and starts speculating.
This one looks like a plane spraying stuff. But again it’s rather close to the ground. It’s actually taking off with the assistance of rockets. It’s not spraying, that’s just rocket exhaust.
This particular plane is a Boeing B-47B, rocket assisted take off, April 15, 1954. An no, that’s not a contrail in the sky behind it – it’s rip in the photo. Click on it for a large version from Wikipedia.
This one is used for cloud seeding. It does not actually spray anything but uses silver iodine flares that are either ejected, or burn in place.
It’s operated by the Sandy land Underground Water Conservation district of Plains, Texas, as part of their SOAR program. They have some more photos of similar equipment on their site. They are all small aircraft not capable of getting to the above 30,000 feet where contrails normally form.
This next photo is also of silver iodine flares, fixed underneath at large plane.
These also show up in “chemtrail” literature. They are sold by Weather Modification Inc, they make a range of weather modification equipment. About this one they say:
WMI racks for ejectable flares are mounted on the belly of the aircraft fuselage. Each rack holds 102 cartridges. When fired, the pyrotechnic is ignited and ejected from the aircraft. In this configuration, the WMI Lear 35A is equipped with four 102-count racks for ejectable glaciogenic pyrotechnics, a total of 408 flares.
Here’s another, this time from North American Weather Consultants, Inc.
About which they say:
This aircraft-mounted cloud seeding generator is fixed in place, and can burn a silver iodide solution during flight.
This one is the “Mk.32 drogue-type underwing pod on the Armée de l’Air Boeing C-135FR Stratotanker” (“93-CC”- s/n 63-8472 of GRV 93). It’s an in-flight refueling system on a French Boeing C-135FR Stratotanker, photographed in Canada, Feb 2005.
The following is supposed to be a plane that has “chemtrail aerosol nozzles” over three of the engines.
In reality, this plane N707MQ is a Boeing 707-320B. The engines are Pratt & Whitney JT3D-3:
It should be perfectly obvious that the “nozzles” are facing the wrong way to be spraying anything. They are actually turbocompressors, which are driven by engine bleed air, and are used to pressurize the interior of the plane. There are only three, as that’s all you need. Here’s a discussion:
One of the more pervasive myths regarding “chemtrails” is that 2008 presidential hopeful Dennis Kuchinich tried to have them banned by an act of congress, but was pressured by the government to modify the act to remove the mention of “chemtrails”.
So what really happened? In a nutshell, Kucinich did not write the bill (or read it, until too late), the focus of the bill is nothing to do with chemtrails, it was written by UFO enthusiasts Alfred Webre and Carol Rosin, who were trying to:
They listed a bunch of weird weapons, including mind control, tectonic weapons and (very briefly) chemtrails. The bill was re-written several time in less unusual language to give it chance of passing, but ultimately fizzled in committee.
I like these contrails from the movie Cars:
They look a little odd at first, but if you look closely (click on the image to expand it) you can see they are actually tire tracks. Here’s some more pics, from a site that thinks the government had these added to the movie to brainwash children into not noticing them when they grow up.
Some people believe that the government is spraying something into the air, and this creates unsual looking contrails. They call these “chemtrails”. Now, there is no real evidence that “chemtrails” are real, but there are several myths on the internet about “chemtrails”. All these myths can very easily be shown to be false, and I’ve gathered the most popular myths here as a little time-saver for the person who has encountered “chemtrails” for the first time.
Myth #1 – Normal contrails don’t last very long, but “chemtrails” last for hours and sometimes spread out.
False – Contrails fade away, or persist, or even spread out to cover the sky, depending on the weather conditions. you can confirm this by looking in an encyclopedia. such as the Encyclopædia Britannica
[Contrails] may last for several hours. The trail may be distorted by the winds, and sometimes it spreads outwards to form a layer of cirrus cloud.
For more info on this myth, read “Persisting and Spreading contrails”
Myth #2 - Contrails have been observed to persist and spread when the humidity was too low, so they must be “chemtrails”
False – Nobody has ever measured low humidity within a persisting contrail. The fact is it is very difficult to measure humidity in a specific region at a specific altitude, at a given time, the best you can do is make a rough prediction. Measurements are made by weather balloons at just a few stations that average 235 miles apart, at 12 hour intervals, and then local predictions are extrapolated from this. The weather balloons can drift as much as 100 miles in their ascent, so you never know where the measurements are coming from. Humidity can vary by as much as 80% in a 12 hour period, and vary by similar amount over just a few miles. The fact that the contrail is spreading is actually a far more accurate indicator of high humidity than the available humidity predictions. NASAs own experiments (right) show persisting contrails over a large range of calculated humidities, even down to 10%.
Myth #3 – Long lasting contrails have appeared in “parallel lines”, “grid” and “X” formations, which are not normal, so must be “chemtrails.
False. Well, the last bit is false. Yes, contrails make all kinds of patterns in the sky, simply because there are a lot of planes flying overhead, and they fly in all directions. This is pretty much a function of where you live, and the prevailing winds. For example, if you live the Willamette Valley, Oregon, the overflying planes are nearly all North/South, so you’ll get parallel lines. If you live live in more central place, like North Texas, you’ll get planes flying overhead in every direction, so you will get “X” patterns (and “H” and “grids”). If there’s enough wind, and the trails last long enough, then the grid might spread out to cover the sky.
Myth #4 – A bill to ban chemtrails was introduced into congress by Dennis Kucinich, but quickly had chemtrails edited out.
False – HR 2977 was written by a bunch of UFO enthusiasts intent on exposing a conspiracy to suppress alien technology. Dennis Kucinich did not write the bill, he not know what chemtrails were, and when he found out, he distanced himself from that language. The bill was re-written in order that it might pass. See the full article: Kucinich, Chemtrails and HR 2977.
Myth #5 – Public Law 105-85 gives the military permission to experiment with chemical and biological weapons on humans, without their consent
False – 105-85, Sec. 1078, actually prevents experiments except for peaceful purposes, and those can only be performed if informed consent is obtained from each test subject. It’s basically the same procedure as for human drug trials.
Those myths are really the basis of the “chemtrail” conspiracy theory. There is more, of course, like the halos and sun-dogs that you sometimes see (normal atmospheric optical effects), the dark lines (shadows of varying types), the stuff on the ground (unconnected). But these things really get to the heart of 99% of the chemtrail argument. After they are dispensed with, the theory holds about as much water as alien mind-control implants.
Let me know if you’ve got something else you’d like investigating, and I might add it here.
Just leave a comment below.
What is a contrail made of? Mostly ice, since one of the primary exhaust emissions of a jet aircraft is water vapour, which freezes within a couple of seconds, and forms the visible part of the contrail. If the air is fairly humid, then the contrail can persist for quite a while, and even spread out, turning into a sheet of cloud.
Jet engines also emit the usual things engines emit: carbon dioxide, smoke, and small amounts of unburnt hydrocarbons, oxides of nitrogen, carbon monoxide and small amounts of other things. Aircraft emissions are regulated.
Some people think that if a contrail stays in the sky for a long time, that this is very unusual, and that it means the government is spraying something in the air, either to change the weather, or to poison people. They call these persistent contrails “chemtrails”
Of course, persistent contrails are nothing new, they have been around at least since the 1940′s – when planes were able to get to sufficient altitude. But some people believe in the “chemtrail” theory so strongly that they ignore this fact, or they say “well, SOME of the persistent contrails must be chemtrails”.
One person who was convinced of this was Clifford Carnicom, who put a report on his web site that he said showed that “contrails” were poisoning the air. What happened was someone called Sue Miller collected three samples of rain and snow. She then sent them to someone called Therese Aigner, who then sent them to a lab to be analyzed for Aluminum, Barium, Calcium, Magnesium, and Titanium.
When the results came back, they detected very low levels of those elements, but Miller said: “This devastating data points to a deliberate atmospheric release of massive quantities of material containing Aluminum, Barium, Calcium, Magnesium, Calcium, and Titanium.“
Scary stuff. But what do these results actually mean. All three samples were about the same, so lets look at the first one:
|PH Field||7.2||6.5 to 8.5|
The “Result” column is the amount the substance found in mg/L (milligrams per liter). The units here are important. Sometimes concentration is measured in ppm (parts per million), which is the same as mg/L. Sometimes they are measured in ppb (parts per billion, so 1 mg/L = 1 ppm = 1000 ppb). Make sure you use the right units when looking at things like this
The second column, the MDL is the “Method Detection Limit”, defined as the smallest amount where you can be 99% sure that there is a non-zero amount of the substance. If a number is below the MDL, then you can’t be sure that it’s just instrument noise. If something is less than MDL, then you can’t say with any certainly if any of the substance exists. The best you can say is “there might be some, but we can’t say for sure, but it’s definitely less than the MDL”
The third column (EPA) is one I added for some perspective. It lists the allowable limits for drinking water from the EPA. If the EPA has not set a limit, then I put N/A.
Most of the substances are lower than the MDL, so we can’t really say if there is actually any of these substances in the sample. But the “chemtrail” people say “Tests were ordered for several elements that should NOT be present in normal rain/snow“. So is that right? Should the results come back as zero?
There are two problem here. Firstly if there actually WAS zero aluminum in the samples, then the tests would STILL come back as “less than MDL”, because of “noise” in the instrument. If an instrument has an MDL level, than means it can’t detect zero values with any confidence.
Secondly, we DO expect these substances in rainwater. Aluminum is the most abundant metal in the earth’s crust, so is found in dust in the air, and hence in rainwater. The EPA says:
The EPA has not set safety limits for aluminum, the limit listed above is for taste and color reasons.
Calcium, likewise, is found in abundance in rocks (and hence airborne dust), as is magnesium and Titanium. There are no EPA limits set, because they are not particularly toxic.
The only substance with a measurable result was Barium. This was present in the samples a concentration that was just 5% of the allowable EPA limits for drinking water. Not a dangerous amount, but should it be found in the air (hence rainfall) at all? The CDC says ”
So yes, barium is in the air, from such things as burning of coal and oil. And seemingly from this test result, not at a dangerous level.
Quickly looking at the pH value – that measures the acidity or alkalinity of a solution, where a value of 7 is considered neutral. Drinking water ranges from 6.5 to 8.5, so the value here of 7.5 is nothing unusual for drinking water. “Acid rain” for example is defined as having a pH of less than 5.0. But rain is usually slightly acidic (pH of around 5.6) because of the carbon dioxide in the air, however it varies depending on location and atmospheric pollution (and can be has high as 8.5) . In the US rainwater is usually under 5.6, so getting a value of 7.5 is somewhat suspicious. since rainwater pH is constantly being measured, it’s very unlikely that such a high pH would have gone unnoticed. The fact that this one set of sample has a high pH suggests that either the samples were contaminated during collection, or that they were actually ground water, and not rainwater.
There are a lot of planes in the air, several thousand at any given time over the US. This animation shows all the tracked air traffic in the air at once. Each dot is a jet. Click on the image to see a 24 hour animation.
The animation is interesting since it shows there are broad flight paths that a lot of planes follow. This (along with wind) explains the parallel trails, and the grids.
If you have Google Earth installed, then click here for near-real time flight tracking of ALL the tracked flights in the US. It looks like this (click for a closer look, there’s more than there initially seems):
Given all these jets flying along regular airways, it’s hardly surprising that when the weather is right, that parallel persistent contrails will show up and then grids where the paths cross. In fact it’s surprising we don’t see more!
And here are some more Flight Pattern Visualizations. Pretty stuff.
See FBOWeb for more info on flight tracking:
“Chemtrails” are supposedly long lasting contrails that are being deliberately created by the government for some sinister purpose. In reality, these contrails just look like normal contrails. It’s a fringe conspiracy theory that spread over the internet, mutating as it goes for survivability. But where did it begin? What is the origin of the word “chemtrail”, and who started this particular conspiracy theory?
The folowing link takes you to an archived copy of a conspiracy theory web page from 2000:
On it is a link to a file entitled “GENOCIDE.TXT” containing emails from 1997, the first part of which originally came from the BIOWAR-L mailing list dated 9/18/97.
The lines filling our skies are not contrails. The lines are dispersed and may linger for hours
We now have proof that our goverment is using chemical agents on populated areas they are adding it to military jet fuel. Have you ever looked up at a vapor trail behind military aircraft flying so high a symbol of Americas power. Look again!!
Commerical jets also leave a lovely (non-toxic) vapor trail when the heat from the turbines come in contact with the cool air condencing the water droplets into steam. Softly the lines defuse into the blue sky. So what is different about the military aircraft, the answer is simple, It’s the Fuel JP-8+100 is some really bad stuff.
When you look up over the skys of New York City on a clear, sunny morning you see the military aircraft making patterens across the sky with their vapor trails. The smoke is thick and does not go away. When it comes in contact with the sunlight it turns to a purple color, then desipates into a over cast Purple Haze.
this whole thing stinks of a Goverment DePopulation Program.
Here you have the key elements of the chemtrail theory, that there are two types of contrail, one that goes away, and one that does not. Further more the one that does not will make you sick.
The earliest dated actual article I could find on this theory was from January 8, 1999, by William Thomas, which recounts the suspicious of three people about contrails, dating them to well before 1999
Wallace has been watching formations of high-flying jets weave grid-like contrails above his home since last summer [summer 1998]. Each time, “We get a taste in our mouth,” he reports. He and his wife Ann get “kind of tired and sick,” having “no energy to do anything.”
Series of aircraft contrails in a high traffic region over the northern Gulf of Mexico 1992 (Images courtesy NASA)
Wallace and his wife are not alone in their plight. In March, 1996, Dr. Greg Hanford bought an expensive camera and binoculars to keep an eye on jets spraying white bands above his Bakersfield, California home. Hanford has counted 40 or 60 jets on some “spray days.”
Pseudo-color, multispectral images taken April 20, 1994 by a NOAA satellite, reveal a number of contrails over Oklahoma and Kansas.
Pat Edgar has been watching the jets spraying over eastern Oklahoma since a sunny day in October, 1977 when as many as 30 contrails gradually occluded the sky. “They look like they’re playing tic-tac-toe up there,” he says. “You know darn well it’s not passenger planes.”
Rogers, does not attribute his strange malady to the mystery jets. But neither he nor his doctors can explain his breathing difficulty, which began shortly after spraying began in November, 1997, and is getting worse.
It seems pretty clear that this article is the beginning of the Chemtrail as a popular internet phenomenon, as it was shortly after this article that William Thomas was invited onto Art Bell’s radio show on January 25th. It’s also very clear from the article that individual suspicions regarding contrails did not suddenly start in 1999. In fact the article dates it back to 1977 (although later version of this article change it to 1997). Of course, paranoia has been going on for a lot longer than that, see
There’s a follow-up article later
Sky Samples Analyzed
By William Thomas with Erminia Cassani
VICTORIA, British Columbia, Canada, April 22, 1999 (ENS) – As unmarked tanker-type aircraft continue spraying sky-obscuring chemtrails over regions of the U.S. and Canada, this writer and American journalist Erminia Cassani have obtained laboratory tests of fully-documented samples of aerial fallout. The samples were tested by a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) licensed facility.
And see this take on the original article from Feb 23, 1999 (read the full article continuing on page 12)
It contains a very interesting depiction of the power of suggestion:
Art said that after Mr. Thomas’ first program he went out to observe how the jets were flying over his Pahrump, Nevada studio/home. Art was shocked to see aerial spraying, and both he and his wife got sick.
Interesting he never noticed this before, but simply talk to William Thomas for four hours, and you start o notice things.
Google Groups archives internet news-groups back to 1981, but the earliest mention of chemtrails was from May 8th, 1999: on alt.fan.art-bell
This cartilage gel that Art’s plugging could be used for the joint ache
that chemtrail victims complained about last night…say…wait a
minute…maybe chemtrails were deployed to boost cartilage gel sales…!
Here we have mention of chemtrail victims, and “joint ache” as a symptom.
In May of 1999, we have this from William Thomas:
CHEMTRAILS OVER AMERICA
Issue #2 April 7-16, 1999
Dear Friends and concerned sky-watchers,
A March 17, 1999 radio interview going out to 15 million listeners
“rang the Bell” on an investigation financed entirely by your efforts.
During this third four-hour segment with Art Bell, I mentioned recent
breakthroughs in an investigation undertaken by a small team of
dedicated associates. My warmest thanks to Richard and Samantha Young,
D, Joe, Erminia, DJ, Karal Ayn, Ken, MB, Barbara, Mark and John for
sharing their valuable time, attention, research and insights.
Again referencing the Art Bell show. The “Chemtrails over America” bulletin apparently had issue #1 on march 9, 1999. That also seems to be about the time people started taking photos of normal contrails and calling them chemtrails.
Judging by the earliest postings, it seems like hypochondria plays a large part. People start to connect the contrails with illness, and suspect they must contain some kind of poison.
Art Bell had a page on contrails, dating back to at least Nov 27th, 1999. Available on Archive.org:
Not a lot of commentary on the first page, but there’s the first usage of the photo of Boeing E6 TACAMO dumping fuel, titled: “The strange contrail mystery continues. (9/30/99)”
Looking at the previous year (1998) on usenet, there is NO mention of chemtrails. The word “contrail” crops up 324 times, mostly in reference to meteors and rockets. There are a few references to the affect of contrails on climate change. But NOTHING about deliberate contrail creation, or anything like “chemtrails”.
The web site chemtrailcentral.com was registered on May 6th, 2000, about a year after the “chemtrail” idea was created. The earliest archived page from there indicates a lot of local media involvement, and their archive indicates nothing before 4/24/2000, which said:
Monday a KHOU crew met with Chemtrail Tracking USA Club co-founders Lorie [Kramer] and Dona of Houston and member Rhonda from Ft. Worth, as well as other local members of the Yahoo! based club for the taping of a story on Chemtrails and public concern over their purpose and health impact. Reporter Ron Travino and cameraman Nathan visited for several hours at the house of Lorie, taping, talking, asking questions, and viewing photos and videos.
On chemtrailcentral, there’s actually a thread about the history of chemtrails. There people give their recollections of how it all started. Most date it to late 1998 or 1999. A few people report earlier contrails (1989, 1991) , and then surmise it must have started earlier.
A post there by 3T3L1 quotes chemtrail debunker Jay Reynolds:
derivation of the word “chemtrails”
Posted on August 26, 2001 at 09:06:54 AM by jayreynolds
was by Val Valerian(pseudonym for Former USAF captain [John] Grace)
in April 1999. Grace/Valerian recognized that the power of suggestion
worked against his claim and proposed coining a new term more suggestive
of his claim
That does not sound unreasonable, since the earliest reference to the word I have is April 1999. This page claims to be reporting from March 29th 1999, but could have been written after the fact, based on photos taken that day. It’s archived back to October 1999.
The original pages from Val Valerian/Valdemar Valerain/O.H. Krill/John Grace, can be found on archive.org. The earliest real mention of spraying on his pages date back to emails 13 Jan 1998. John Grace is a UFO conspiracy theorist who published several books on shadow governments and suchlike, he also faked documents to support arguments in his books.
There are also some early mentions in the archives of CTRL – the Conspiracy Theory Research List, a mailing list for the discussion of conspiracty theories. Here’s the earliest entries:
I think some of the date stamps on these are wrong, but they do date from around 1999. There are some other early references to contrails in 1999, including one that links to the earliest debunking page, still active, with photos from Feb 11th 1999:
Digging into the CTRL archives a bit more gives us this:
Subject: The Millennium Report - Special Edition: Contrail Reports Increasing Across the US From: [EMAIL PROTECTED] (Paul Anderson - TMP / CPR-Canada) Date: Thu, Feb 18, 1999 10:43 PM Message-id: <[EMAIL PROTECTED]> The Millennium Report - Special Edition: Contrail Reports Increasing Across the US _____________________________ In This Report: Special Edition: Contrail Reports Increasing Across the US The contrail controversy continues to grow; according to William Thomas, the independent journalist who has brought this issue to national attention (yet still not being reported in the mainstream media it seems) the "contrails" have been reported now in at least 40 US states. Many reports and photographs are now available, many on various web sites (see contrail page in Special Research Projects on the TMP web site for links). [...] * *William Thomas: Next Interview on Art Bell - February 18, 1999* * William Thomas: (Previous Interview) on Art Bell - January 25, 1999 http://ww2.broadcast.com/artbell/abell/9901/ab0125.ram (This audio file link requires RealAudio or RealPlayer) William Thomas: Mystery Contrails: Poison from the Sky? - Update http://www.islandnet.com/~wilco/investsky.htm More Contrail Reports and Feedback (Special Research Projects) http://persweb.direct.ca/psa/conrep.html LA Mystery Contrails: Report and Photos http://www.sightings.com/ufo2/lacon.htm Ground Zero: Are These in Your Skies? http://www.heavensake.com/groundzero/~scrc/main.html Horizon http://horizon.worldinter.net The Harbinger http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Keep/4885/contrails.htm Contrail Photo Taken by Art Bell http://www.artbell.com/images/artcontrail.jpg
Which dates things a bit more precisely, the first Art Bell show with William Thomas was Feb 18th 1999
Now, the “LA Mystery Contrails: Report and Photos”, link above seems to go to an early version of Jeff Rense’s web site, with a post by “Marvin Rush”. It has some nice photos of contrails spreading into cirrus, dated 2-13-99
The “Harbringer”, “heavensake” sites are not avaialble.
This “Horizon” page gives a lot of good archived links with dates back to 1/8/99
Jay Reynolds, a long-time chemtrail debunker, has a page which contains several personal emails the details the early days of chemtrails:
“Procrustean Science” is a wonderful phrase I came across on the internet in a paper on “Indigenous siderophiles in the lunar highlands”. It’s a rare phrase, deriving from the legend of Procrustes, who was an inn-keeper that liked his guests to fit their beds exactly. If the guests were too short, he would stretch them on a rack, and if they were too long, he would chop off their feet.
In Procrustean science, the bed represents the theory, and the guests represent the facts and observations constituting the evidence. If the facts do not fit, then they are simply altered to make them fit the theory.
That’s the problem with chemtrail theory, they start with the theory, and then pick and choose facts, and narrowly interpret information in a way that fits the theory. They problem is that you can do that for ANY theory. Just constantly refine your interpretation so it is always correct.
Real science does not work like that. It starts with the facts, and then considers all possible explanations, and narrows in on the theory that fits the facts, rather than picking and adjusting the facts that fit the theory.
The opposite of a contrail is a “distrail”. When a jet flies through a high cloud then various factors to do with the passage of the jet are sufficient to trigger precipitation in the cloud, leaving holes or trails. The precipitation can spread outwards quite a distance.
This is a satellite image over Texas. Holes form when the plane is climbing or descending through the cloud. The longer trails form when a plane flies at about cloud height for a while.
Here’s another example from North Texas, and a picture of what these hole shaped distrails look like from below.