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A Very Unusual Contrail


Okay, it’s not actually a contrail.   But it’s a related phenomenon – a plume of hot humid air is rising from a volcano, and where it hits the cold upper air, the water vapor it contains condenses out.  Possibly into ice, but it’s hard to tell.

The brown clouds are volcanic ash.   The white round cloud is condensed water.

Here’s a wider shot:


You can see the plume must be very high.  See it has cast a shadow on the cloud layer, which has been pushed away from the volcano by the rising air.

Here’s the original image from NASA


Here’s another image from directly above.  Note this is from a sequence of 31 photos, numbered 9022 to 9052, which you can see by making the obvious changes to the URL above.


Here’s a video of all the shots put together in a time-lapse video:

48 thoughts on “A Very Unusual Contrail

  1. JazzRoc says:

    Sensational! Quite eerie, really.
    I often use the active volcanoes argument when in dispute with “chemtrail” advocates, pointing out that there are about fifteen hundred active (24/7) volcanoes on the land, and possibly ten thousand sub-ocean ones – and yet our air is fresh – and this can only be due to a huge body-mass of green plants which naturally “respire” this volcanic (and our!) contamination back to purity.
    The requirement that water vapor has for condensing to a water droplet or freezing to an ice crystal is a small molecule or particle to ‘nucleate’ upon. This tends to “sweep” particulate matter (aerosols) out of the air, and in practice that is the other natural mechanism required to freshen our air. It is very capable, and deals with the massive outputs of exploding volcanoes or large asteroid strikes within a decade or so.
    Global dimming by volcanic action, natural forest fires, and anthropogenic combustion is a tiny fraction of what it would be if there were no water in the atmosphere.

  2. Ed says:

    The circle of clear air around the rising plume is probably caused by air sinking to replace the warm air that is rising above the volcano. Sinking air warms as it descends thus lowering the relative humidity and vapourising the cloud droplets or ice crystals. There are some hints of this motion at the edge of the ring where whisps of cloud seem to be stretching toward the plume. It is an amazing photo.
    As the commenter above points out you can’t (easily) get condensation in a perfectly clean atmosphere. You need nucleation particles. Volcanoes are one source. Other sources are wind blown dust and even (especially) salt crystals blown up from the breaking waves on the ocean.

  3. kgb says:

    what the hell does this have to do with the price of tea in china? I mean, are you really using a volcano to rationalize your ridiculous contrail explanations by comparing it with a contrail? Thats digging deep. Must be running out of lies that the sheeple will actually believe. and what do ya know! there’s old jazzroc on board ready help you put anyone in their place should they have an opposing view. All them conspiracy theorists from all parts of the world had a secret meeting one day and decided to initiate a chemtrail hoax on a global scale. that must be what happened right guys? Unless, of course all of these people from all walks of life that are expressing their concerns about the very same tradgedy happening all over the earth are actually not making it up! could it actually be the logical conclusion or is it actually a conspiracy? calling someone a conspiracy theorist is no different than being a racist. you are labeling someone with a name without knowing anything about the person and having no reason to believe that he is not sincere. Once you have tagged your victim with that label, the ridicule can commence and everyone can laugh and tell their tin foil hat jokes and implying wack job. a devious yet effective tactic that all of the sheeple will eagerly comply with in order to avoid being called names and being laughed at. The rest of us are actually opening our eyes and observing the sky as it gets molested almost daily and wondering why we are being sprayed like insects. go ahead, bury your head in the sand or let uncinus and jazzroc feed you full of contrail science fiction so you can justify why you are conforming with the rest of the flock instead of facing reality. because if you dont, people might think you are a wack job! when you consider the alternative, then who really is the wack job? I’ll let them poison me but I’ll be damned if they are going to laugh at me and cast me from the status quo and in with the likes of those wacko’s!

  4. It has to do with contrails and science which is what this site is about. I find contrails, and clouds, fascinating. This is a very unusual photo of condensation in the upper atmosphere, perhaps the rarest kind of cloud. Very interesting stuff, and a spectacular photo. That is why I posted it.

    Nobody denies that conspiracies exist, or have existed in the past, or will exist again. What’s in question is this particular conspiracy that you claim is going on. It is in question because of the lack of actual scientific evidence to support it, and because of the vast amount of scientific evidence that shows that what you label “chemtrails” are actually persistent contrails (see the top of this page).

    I’m sorry if you feel ridiculed. That’s not my intent, and I encourage other posters here to refrain from such behavior. I simply disagree with your conclusions, and I feel I have made a very good case for my disagreement. I would appreciate discussion of the actual evidence, and avoidance of personal attacks, which are rarely helpful.

  5. JazzRoc says:


    Must be running out of lies

    If they are in the plural, then it must be easy to name one.

    So name one.

  6. stars15k says:

    All them conspiracy theorists from all parts of the world had a secret meeting one day and decided to initiate a chemtrail hoax on a global scale,/blockquote>
    No, a group of people who didn’t know what they saw in the sky, looked it up on the internet, and chose to follow a theory for which there is no proof. These people, however sincere they are, then broadcast what they chose to believe to others, and the cycle continues. That is following a story for which they have no real proof or evidence beyond anecdotal and sloppy understanding of science, being led by someone with little or no grasp of the science principles really involved. So who exactly are you calling “sheeple”? We have science that can answer the questions, not just give varied explanations. When you say “All”, how do you account for the different scenarios from site to site, believer to believer?

    having no reason to believe that he is not sincere

    Since when has sincerity had anything to do with science facts? Facts are facts because they can stand alone. Someone can be very sincere about their belief that the earth is flat, and still the earth remains round. And I’m as sincere as anyone that science can and does explain it all, and that there is no hidden agenda.

    very same tradgedy

    the sky as it gets molested almost daily

    You seem to have your opinion made up, without regard to what others would call evidence and provable facts. Why? What proof did you use to make that choice? Where did you get your information? Why is that source more valid than the science sources available here? Because it conforms to the belief system you chose, nothing more. So people who don’t think like you are……?

  7. Kamran says:

    Thanks for what you are doing Uncinus. It must be very aggravating talking to chemtrail conspiracy theorists especially after you explain that “chemtrails” are persistent contrails then they will claim that they are different than contrails because contrails don’t last as long. You must have amazing patience.

  8. Kamran says:

    I live in the Pacific Northwest about 100 miles between Portland and Seattle and from what I remember persistent contrails are much more common than a more fleeting type, but this is only based on memory, not on any conscious record taking. Would this be likely or could it be that I only notice the longer trails?

  9. That’s probably to do with the region you live in. A damp region, with lots of air traffic. But also note that simply because a persistent trails stays in the sky much longer than a short one, and it’s much bigger, then you are much more likely to notice it.

  10. Lady Crow says:

    That’s really beautiful shot. 🙂

    By the way, all your site is great, packed with nice photos and professional articles, that’s something rarely seen over the net.

    Well, that’s it… I just wanted to say I like it because it seems that most of the readers just want to prove you are some EBUL army monster who wants to suck their souls and bank accounts or something XD.
    No, srsly, all this blind belief is REALLY SCARY! O.o Yes, there are similar stubborn people who believe in UFO or Lochness monster, but those are quite harmless, aren’t they? But this “chemtrail” hoax… what can be next?

  11. stars15k says:

    Amen, Lady Crow. Up next (according to YouTube, where many of these people seem to spend waaaaay too much time) seems to be the world ending in 2012. And chemtrails are tied into it all because it’s believed by some (again on YouTube) that they are being used to cover up the coming Planet X. Yikes.
    Uh, looks like I spend too much time there myself, that I even know this. I’m truly embarrassed.

  12. Komster says:


    I have to congratulate you on a very well researched and equally well laid out site.

    Your explanations are very well laid out and to the “noob” and uninformed, I’m sure quite convincing.

    Indeed you have managed to cover much ground hunting around a number of websites using them to cast a very compelling shadow over the whole Chemtrail phenomena.

    It’s sad that the majority of people are so socially dummbed down, ignorant and conditioned into acceptance….If they weren’t, your arguments would be laughed off before you’d even registered this domain name.

    As a well informed academic, I find you explanations short of contemptuous and insulting to any level of intelligence.
    I’m not sure which is more disturbing. Your pseudo science or the fact that people MIGHT actually buy into it.

    This is nothing more than a culmination of misinformation perpetuating ignorance in the hope of maintaining and further creating social retardation.

    To question these ridiculous explanations makes one a “conspiracy theorist”.
    Any attempt to illumine those trapped in their limited understanding elicits a barrage of character assassination, ridicule and abject rejection perpetuated by the fear that the truth MIGHT actually get out.

    The fact is….The truth always gets out and this substandard attempt at disinformation is going to do very little in hiding the facts.


  13. Hi Komster, welcome to the site. If you could be a bit more specific about what you think is in error, then I’d be very happy to try to address it. Please don’t hold back – I’m very willing to hear new evidence, so if you can point to anything on this site that is wrong, then let me know.

  14. Main argument aside, this is a very nice picture.

    Volcanic activity has been given much more credence in recent years as far as affecting weather patterns.

  15. JazzRoc says:


    Volcanic activity has been given much more credence in recent years as far as affecting weather patterns.

    But perhaps not enough.

    There are 1,500 active volcanoes on Earth’s visible land surface, and an estimated 10,000 or so running along the 40,000 miles of mid-ocean fault lines, where the oceans are growing.

    As volcanoes give off magma, steam, carbon dioxide, and sulfur dioxide, whether or not they are above or below sea level seems to me a moot point; they either affect the atmosphere directly by emitting into it, or indirectly by affecting the oceans’ ability to absorb those gases.

    I’m beginning to wonder if they have been correctly factored in to our ‘gigantic’ weather-modelling simulations (which so far don’t seem to be working very well).

  16. Ten98 says:


    No, srsly, all this blind belief is REALLY SCARY! O.o Yes, there are similar stubborn people who believe in UFO or Lochness monster, but those are quite harmless, aren’t they? But this “chemtrail” hoax… what can be next?

    Beleiving that a secret global society has spending billions on spraying barium into the atmosphere with no appreciable effect completely undetected for several decades might be pretty wacky, but entire nations have gone to war because one side beleives that god is a big bearded white man in the sky and the other beleives that there might be three or four gods all with different duties.

    It’s not a new thing for some people to beleive in the ridiculous, and shun all rational explanation of anything else, it’s why religious cults work.

    It’s a kind of mental imbalance, most of the time they actually already know that what they beleive is untrue, but are unwilling to admit it to themselves.

    I find this site fascinating as the long diatribes written by people with this condition are very interesting to someone with an interest in psychology.

  17. Joel says:

    Holy cow! Those pictures are amazing… Right now I want to be an astronaut!

  18. john says:

    There is a huge difference between the deliberately sprayed chemtrails and normal contrails.

    1. Altitude, I see too many chemtrails at very low altitudes which defies the contrail science.

    2. I have seen many planes turn the trails off and on thus the “naturally occurring” part goes out the window. Look up at the sky and chances are you will see the planes do it too or at the very least see trails that have gaps in them I guess JazzRock and all these other paid disinfo agents will probably come up with some wacky theory that the plane turned its engines off or something ridiculous like that.

    3. Ask your self why one day you see them “chemtrails” and then another day you don’t, did the airports shut down for a day? no! normal commercial airlines are not responsible for this, military planes with no marking are.

    4. I have measured the humidity in the air where there was only 5% humidity in the air, in the summer at very hot temperatures and low altitudes yet I still see chemtrails. You expect me to believe that ice crystals are forming in these conditions, well you are insulting my intelligence then.

    I am convinced that we are being deliberately sprayed. Just google “chemtrails in the news” and watch the videos. Why are they finding barium in the rain water, they even say in the news story that barium could be used to wear down a persons immune system. Then look up the “georgia guidestones” and tell me that they “the elite” are not trying to reduce the population.

    Prince Philip, … of Great Britain

    “You cannot keep a bigger flock of sheep than you are capable of feeding. In other words conservation may involve culling in order to keep a balance between the relative numbers in each species within any particular habitat. I realize this is a very touchy subject, but the fact remains that mankind is part of the living world…. Every new acre brought into cultivation means another acre denied to wild species.” –Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, consort of Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain

    “In the event I am reborn, I would like to return as a deadly virus, in order to contribute something to solve overpopulation.” –Prince Philip, quoted in Deutsche Presse Agentur, August 1988

    Sir Peter Scott, World Wildlife Fund

    “If we look at things causally, the bigger problem in the world is population. We must set a ceiling to human numbers. All development aid should be made dependent on the existence of strong family planning programs.” –Sir Peter Scott, chairman, World Wildlife Fund U.K., 1984

    The Club of Rome

    “In searching for a new enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like would fit the bill…. But in designating them as the enemy, we fall into the trap of mistaking symptoms for causes. All these dangers are caused by human intervention and it is only through changed attitudes and behavior that they can be overcome. The real enemy, then, is humanity itself.” –Club of Rome, The First Global Revolution, 1991

    Robert McNamara, World Bank

    “Overpopulation and rapid demographic growth of Mexico is already today one of the major threats to the national security of the United States.” Unless the U.S.-Mexico border is sealed, “we will be up to our necks in Mexicans for whom we cannot find jobs.” –Robert McNamara, then-World Bank president, March 19, 1982

    “…There are only two possible ways in which a world of 10 billion people can be averted. Either the current birth rates must come down more quickly. Or the current death rates must go up. “There is no other way. “There are, of course, many ways in which the death rates can go up. In a thermonuclear age, war can accomplish it very quickly and decisively. Famine and disease are nature’s ancient checks on population growth, and neither one has disappeared from the scene…. “To put it simply: Excessive population growth is the greatest single obstacle to the economic and social advancement of most of the societies in the developing world.” –Robert McNamara, Oct. 2, 1979

    “A total population of 250-300 million people, a 95% decline from present levels, would be ideal.”
    Ted Turner – CNN founder and UN supporter – quoted in the McAlvany Intelligence Advisor, June ’96

    “The world has a cancer, and that cancer is man.” – Merton Lambert, former spokesman for the Rockefeller foundation

    Over population may be a problem but who made these assholes GOD. Now ask yourselves do you still think that they are not spaying the air you breath. The sad truth is that they are. Now what are you going to do about it? You need to react people! Tell everyone you know and demand answers before it is too late.
    You owe it to yourself and your family not to ignore this information. Please research it for yourselves and then watch the skys you will soon realize I am telling you the truth.

  19. Hi John. Let’s take that one thing at a time:

    1. Altitude, I see too many chemtrails at very low altitudes which defies the contrail science.

    How have you measured the altitude of the planes that leave contrails? Can you give an example of a situation where you determined the model of plane (hence its relative size) and how high it was?

    I’ll address your other points when you can explain this.

  20. faithinscience says:

    *Sigh*….John, you know nothing about aviation or atmospheric science. The temperature and humidity at ground level have NOTHING to do with the conditions at altitude. I know you won’t believe me so I won’t waste my time explaining it to you. I would suggest that you go to the library and take out a book on atmospheric science. You do not have a firm grasp on the material. Not even close.

  21. I think John is also suggesting the planes are at a low altitude, so the humidity might be a bit more relevant. However, he needs to explain how he measures that altitude.

    I recommend the digital camera method, if the plane can be identified.


  22. captfitch says:

    I think number four is impossible unless he lives in a desert. 5% with a high temp seems unlikely. Maybe at an extremely low temp.

  23. JazzRoc says:


    I think number four is impossible unless he lives in a desert. 5% with a high temp seems unlikely. Maybe at an extremely low temp.

    The Atacama Desert gets down to the low tens. The driest place on Earth – at 14,000 feet. Highly recommended for people who believe “research” can be conducted with their eyes and ears, and YouTube.

  24. I believe John is from Wisconsin, where the humidity rarely goes below 30%

  25. captfitch says:

    I’ll go ahead and give him the benefit of the doubt and say that maybe he has seen 5%. On the other hand I’d also wager that he has stood on the ground with relatively low humidity and looked up to see a cloud which should instantly clue him in to the error in his reasoning.

  26. Artyom says:

    Faithinscience is correct, he has no grasp of atmospheric science. Contrails will form when the atmospheric conditions are met. There are photos of them formed at the ground level in Antarctica. Anyone claiming they know the atmosphere from viewing on the ground has no credibility. “I see so therefore I know” is how this joke continues. Chemtrail Science is just a collection of youtube videos and water samples taken from the ground. If Volcanic ash can remain in the atmosphere for years what makes them think these chems, in particulate form, can settle down on them making them sick. There is no link between contrails and weather modification. They don’t hide weather modification what so ever. One can watch videos of weather modification planes, but that isn’t sinister enough for these people. Oh, and teaching this fundamental education to people goes unappreciated. They call people idiots and disinfo and how we’ll die first from the NWO. I feel bad for educated community when Alex Jones creates his Chemtrail movie which will undoubtedly be the same recycled claims with mixed reports of weather modification by governments around the world leaving the viewer to psychologically connect the two together. I don’t have the patience for these people at all. People make the choice to turn on youtube videos ***YOU ARE BEING SPRAYED**** and they believe. Or they can start with fact, there is a trail in the sky and scientifically find out about it. This site shouldn’t even have to talk about chemtrails… The fact that those who run it have the patience to deal with endless insults and stubborn people, deserves a lot of respect.

  27. Raymond says:

    This is a good example of different layers of moisture in the atmosphere. Something the Chemtards just don’t understand. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8b/Castle_Union.jpg

  28. JazzRoc says:

    RaymondL “http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8b/Castle_Union.jpg

    That’s a wonderful picture. Those annuli are moving outward at the speed of sound and are similar to the “shock cones” which form around supersonic aircraft, in that they are temporary. Here they are “frozen” into immobility…

    You can distinctly see that the bottom “layer” is the tropopause itself, and silhouetted beneath it you can see cumuliform clouds.

    It’s possible this is a video of the same test from a different viewpoint:

  29. Chromatose says:

    KGB: “All them conspiracy theorists from all parts of the world had a secret meeting one day and decided to initiate a chemtrail hoax on a global scale. that must be what happened right guys?”

    Yup, it’s called the internet.

    Sorry, I know that was an old comment but I literally laughed out loud at that statement.

  30. nikki says:

    What an amazing photo !

    I have seen odd contrails – i believe they were from the aurora hypersonic jet and its pulse engine – “donuts on a rope”.

    I dont think those were anything sinister – just odd looking.

  31. nikki says:


    aurora (?) trail also


    the poster claims it was aurora but i dont think so – however – it appears to be a contrail a huge one that is only a few feet above a building or boat or something.
    I thought they only occured high up?
    What is this thing?

  32. That’s a cloud


    Clearly the video poster knew this, and was just trolling.

  33. JazzRoc says:


    I have seen odd contrails – i believe they were from the aurora hypersonic jet and its pulse engine – “donuts on a rope”.

    I’m not sure hypersonic speeds and pulse jets are necessary to produce this effect.
    More likely a combination of span and wing loading.
    Uncinus, what do you think?
    Meanwhile, a couple of clips which seem helpful to me…



  34. nikki says:

    wow – morning glory – who knew ! I would so love to see those !

    The aurora is documented for leaving odd trails – something to do with the way its engine works – in “pulses” so you end up with rings . . . it travels upward of mach 11 / 12 so “seeing” one is no mean feat since its usually long gone by the time you hear it :S

    There is another trail reported to be from the same plane

  35. captfitch says:

    That last pic was clearly just a plane doing circles in place. Wind carried the trails further and further away as he made them but I don’t know why he would have done those for so long. But there’s no rule that says he can’t.

  36. There’s an extensive discussion of the formation of structures in contrails in Clouds of The World:


    Note particularly 11.2.3 which came from a single engine fighter jet. The photo was probably taken sometime in the 1960s. Not quite Donuts on a Rope, but then neither are many of the youtube videos.


    I’d love to see a contrail from a Pulse Detonation Engine, but I suspect many of the candidates are just the result of normal factors. Have a look at this analysis:


  37. Actually captfitch, I seem to remember that image being the UK Nimrod aircraft, flying in circles doing it’s radar thing. It’s in the English Channel anyway.

    There’s an interesting series of similar images here:


  38. captfitch says:

    So do you know if they are remaining in place or are they actually changing position?

  39. Steve says:

    Video of this object that turns out to be an American intercontinental ballistic launched from Vandenberg California. Very impressive tail as viewed from China.

  40. Madeleine says:

    Dear John,

    “2. I have seen many planes turn the trails off and on thus the “naturally occurring” part goes out the window. Look up at the sky and chances are you will see the planes do it too or at the very least see trails that have gaps in them…”

    Is cloud cover always continuous? Aren’t there often gaps between one cloud and the next?

    “3. Ask your self why one day you see them “chemtrails” and then another day you don’t, did the airports shut down for a day?”

    Ask yourself why sometimes you can see the stars at night and sometimes you can’t. Atmospheric conditions vary. Read a little bit about what contrails actually are (plenty of explanations on this very site), and the answer becomes crystal (snerk) clear. Also, if a plane doesn’t leave any kind of trail, that doesn’t mean it’s not there, but it does mean it might be very difficult for you to see with the naked eye.

  41. Nick S. says:

    Excellant website! TY

  42. MikeC says:

    Amsterdam Island in he middle of the Indian Ocean, leaves a pattern in the sky – wasn’t sure where o put this pic, but it seems like it might qualify as an “Interesting Contrail”, even tho’ it isn’t really! 🙂

    The pic comes from http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=6151

  43. czygyny says:

    I see this is an old thread, but I am curious if the cloud at the top of the volcanic plume might be considered a pileus cloud such as forms on towering cumulonimbus?

    Actually I just verified that statement by this Wikipedia photo revealing the cap as pileus:


    Awesome image, as is the Amsterdam Island image showing the vortices downwind of terrain…I like!

    I am afforded great views of the sky and surrounded on three sides with tall mountains making it an orographic ‘undulatus’ heaven.

  44. The photo is also used as an example on the wikipedia article on Pileus 🙂


  45. captfitch says:

    I absolutely love those clouds but man they can be dangerous! I associate them with standing lenticulars in terms of creation and appearance.

  46. JFDee says:

    I figure they could count as “aerodynamic clouds” …

  47. czygyny says:

    We see a lot of lenticular clouds over our Mt. Shasta…awesome. I have some good images of pileus, too.

    Thanks to your site I now know a new term, ‘distrail’…and I now know what caused this line in this cirrus undulatus:


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