Home » contrails » Things That Are NOT Contrails (or Chemtrails)

Things That Are NOT Contrails (or Chemtrails)


Contrails are long thin clouds of ice crystals that form behind planes that fly through freezing cold air. Usually, you see them behind jets at around 30,000 feet.  If the air they fly though has enough moisture in it already, then these contrail clouds can last for a long time before they evaporate.  Sometimes you get a lot of them at once in the sky, if the weather is right. They look like this:

Note: the trails in the above photo ARE CONTRAILS (and some natural clouds).  That’s a photo taken by NASA scientist Louis Nguyen from I-95 in northern Virginia, January 26, 2001.    This is the only photo of contrails in this article.  The remaining photos are NOT contrails.

There are several things that a superficially somewhat similar, in that they involve stuff coming out of the back of an airplane and/or lines in the sky.  But these things are not contrails.


Skywriting is making patterns in the sky using smoke trails.  Done at a low altitude using small planes, it can look very like a contrail, but it’s very different as skywriting is made from smoke (made from injecting oil into the hot exhaust), and contrails are made from ice crystals.


Also known as “Dot Matrix Sky Writing”, See:


Skytyping utilizes five airplanes that fly abreast, 250-feet apart and “type” up to 25-30 character messages in a dot-matrix-like pattern. Skytyping is 17 times faster than skywriting, laying out a letter every 4 seconds. During skytyping aerial exhibitions, the pilots fly their aircraft in a line-abreast formation while a computer in the lead plane sends radio signals to the smoke systems in each plane in the formation, thus creating a customized message in a dot-matrix pattern of environmentally safe puffs of smoke.

In the above photo, the trails have been blurred by the wind, but you can kind of make out letters in the section to the right.


Rather similar to skywriting, smoke trails are used to enhance exhibitions of aerobatics, often with different colored trails.  These are the Red Arrows, in the UK.

Even gliders can perform aerobatics, and they often have wingtip smoke generators to show this off:


More technically called “Aerial Application”, this involves spraying crops or agricultural areas with fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, or defoliants, for a variety of reasons.  Typically done with small planes or helicopters just a few tens of feet above the crop, like this:


Sometimes larger areas that a few fields are sprayed for things like mosquito control.  Larger planes can be used, but they still have to spray very close to the ground.  Here’s a C-130 spraying a few hundred feet up:


Sometimes planes have smoke emitters placed on them for research purposes – generally visualize the flow of air behind the plane, the vortices, or “wake turbulence” which can be dangerous to other planes.  Here’s one example:



Atmospheric conditions can make clouds form in odd ways.  These unusual stratocumulus clouds called “cloud streets” formed over the Sea of Okhotsk, Northern Japan, on June 18th, 2007.

Here’s a satellite photo of the region showing these clouds:

More info here:



People try to make clouds produce more rain by “Seeding” them with tiny particles of things like silver iodine.  This is done using incendiary devices attached to the aircraft.  Basically, flares that are burnt one at a time.  Here’s what they look like in action.

Long shots of clouds seeding are hard to come by because it happens inside or above the cloud.   If you see a long trail coming from behind a plane, then it’s not cloud seeding.  The trail is very thin, and probably not noticeable from the ground, even if you could see the plane.


Planes are often used in fighting fires, and typically drop fire retardant from a low altitude.  Often it’s bright red, but sometimes it’s just water pulled from a nearby lake.  This one is in Missoula, Montana.  Note it’s a fairly low altitude, probably 1000 feet or so.


When a plane takes off they are usually full of fuel.  At this point, they are too heavy to safely land (it’s a lot easier on a plane to take off than to land).  If they have to cut their trip short, then they have to get rid of that excess weight.  They can just fly around for hours to burn it off, but some planes have a fuel dump system that lets them get rid of the excess fuel rapidly by just dumping it into the air.  This is often from vents at the end of the wing, but sometimes it’s mid-wing, or at the tail.

This is a Navy E-6B Mercury (TACAMO), dumping fuel from its mid-wing vents.

Here’s a rare set of shots from the ground of a jet dumping fuel

Note the difference between this and a contrail.  You can see it’s coming from the wingtips, and you can see the trails just kind of blur out as it spreads and evaporates, unlike contrails which have much more well-defined edges, even as they fade away.  See here for the full story behind this incident:


The aircraft, of of KLM’s B744 full passenger versions, registered PH-BFG, took off from SFO and somewhere around Sacramento the crew decided to turn back to SFO because the nosewheel wouldn’t retract.

See also:


And a cool video:



Gliders use water for ballast, and they sometimes let some out to reduce their descent rate, usually when landing.  It looks similar to fuel dumping.  Here’s a nice example:


Most rockets can produce a kind of contrail as the combustion of the fuel (especially if they are hydrogen+oxygen fueled) will produce a lot of water.  But for many rockets there is also a lot of visible smoke.  It’s not always visually clear what is smoke, and what is water. When they get very high up, the trail spreads out and is lit by the sun in unusual ways.  You see this a lot with the missile tests in California.  You could call this a contrail if you wanted, so long as you note it’s a rocket contrail, and so probably contains smoke.


Generally seen best from space, large ships can create a trail in the atmosphere above it that resembles a contrail.  These are off the coast of France.  They are generally more squiggly than contrails, as the ships move much slower, so the trail is at the mercy of the wind to a greater degree.


Military planes shoot out flares to confuse heat-seeking missiles.  These are very bright and leave smoke trails.  Usually, they shoot off in all different directions, like this:


Chaff is a substance that planes spray to confuse radar.  Generally it thin fibers, coated with aluminum.  I could not find ANY photos of chaff being sprayed, despite it being used since the 1940s.  This is probably because it just looks like fine dust.  It does not leave a trail (it would be rather pointless to defeat the radar, but then have a big line pointing to where you are).  It’s only visible to radar.


This photo I originally thought was chaff, as that was how it was labeled, but then someone pointed out it was actually smoke from the guns firing. Not chaff, but not a contrail either. There are a variety of reasons why smoke can be coming from an airplane.

125 thoughts on “Things That Are NOT Contrails (or Chemtrails)

  1. the guy says:

    who are you trying to convince the public or yourself? give it a rest.

  2. JFDee says:

    The Guy,

    why should we “give it a rest” when proponents of the “chemtrail conspiration” are not ?

    As long as false claims are made and facts are misinterpreted, there is a reason to debunk.

    Do you have any specific comments to issues discussed here? Corrections? Not just general

  3. answersinyourhead says:

    I don’t think people even care that they are being poisoned by chemtrails… the status quo has always been to poison ones self… Its easy to tell the difference between a chemtrail and a contrail. that’s it.

    and it wont matter because we are all going to be screwed before this election. the NDAA is just the tip of the iceberg… get ready to be herded into a FEMA camp before November sheeple…

  4. answersinyourhead says:

    shit probably just put myself at the top of a government list that I was already on.

  5. answersinyourhead says:

    and yes I’ve been arrested for posting an anonymous comment on a blog from a random Wifi spot – this was several years ago… If the weather channel admits geo-engineering is real + all the other common sense evidence what do you really think is going on? that they are not spraying? This website is run by the NWO. Please don’t kill me Illuminati I am smart I see what you doin’ I don’t care about the sheeple either at least let the truthers live they are your only enemies life ain’t fun without enemies to toy with the sheeple will get boring what you gonna do with zombie’s in meat suits huh?

  6. MyMatesBrainwashed says:

    life ain’t fun without enemies

    There you go. Chemtrails make peoples’ lives more interesting for themselves.

    Here is someone that believes life is boring without enemies (whilst projecting that onto the enemy they have created).

    And what safer enemy is there than one that doesn’t exist. But it brightens the day.

  7. Jay Reynolds says:

    “and yes I’ve been arrested for posting an anonymous comment on a blog from a random Wifi spot”

    I doubt you’ll show any proof for that claim, either. Probably you said it to build yourself up.

  8. MikeC says:

    When did the weather channel admit that chemtrailing is happening?

  9. tryblinking says:

    As usual with the global science community, they have only discussed geoengineering on the Weather channel. There is no evidence of anyone admitting to actually trying it yet, as that is fiction.

    Why try it when there is no agreement on what would happen? Agreement comes only after conclusions, which only come after interpretation of evidence, which only comes after analysis of multiple independant longterm experimental results, before which the best experimental procedures must be agreed upon, which can obvioulsly only result from open discussion.

    That’s where we are now. Right at the beginning. If you want even the chance to find anything which approaches your wide definitions of ‘chemtrails’, you’ve got decades to wait.

  10. tryblinking says:

    [close italic failed after ‘discussed’ on the first line- could you fix that Uncinus?]

  11. Alexey says:

    I’ve just come across this photo with a trail from the wing end:


    Any idea what it is?

  12. MikeC says:

    The aircraft is a Thai Air 747-400 – http://www.airliners.net/search/photo.search?regsearch=HS-TGK

    It looks like fuel dumping out of just 1 tank/side

    This thread – http://www.airliners.net/photo/KLM—Royal/Boeing-747-406/1666904/L/ – shows a 747 surge tank overflowing in flight and “dumping” which is not coming from the visible fuel dump nozzle.

    This thread talks about an a/c dumoping from 1 tank only and compares it with surge tank dumping – http://www.pprune.org/archive/index.php/t-135875.html

    Here’s another thread on the same topic with a photo – http://www.airliners.net/aviation-forums/general_aviation/print.main?id=3439237

    The surge tank is a usually empty tank bay in the outer wing into which excess fuel can flow – or surge – if there is reason to do so – eg if the tanks are overfilled and the a/c banks or similar. Surge tanks vent straight to atmosphere.

  13. Alexey says:


    Thank you for the explanation. I was unaware about fuel surge tanks and surprised that the trail come from only one wingtip. Now I know that it is not uncommon and have found more similar photos:



  14. Noble says:

    If only others would be as honest about what they are unaware of.

  15. MikeC says:

    You are welcome 🙂

    I wasn’t quit 100% right about surge tanks – usually they drain back into the main tanks through one-way valves – any overflow is also through 1-way valves but arranged in such a way that it only happens in the sorts of situations I mentioned. They also serve to allow expansion & contraction of the volume of fuel as it is used or with changing temperature.

    Venting large amounts of fuel to atmosphere would be quite unusual

  16. Jay Reynolds says:

    In this video, I believe I see a drain mast trail, haven’t seen this at close range before.

    What do you say?


  17. Pat says:

    Well all of you guys should be skeptic. No matter which way you agree, you should check into it non biasly. And so I have. First of all what I have noticed is this 1) one its impossible for the planes to give ice crystals that fall into the sky and spread for hours. As the crystals drop in altitude so should the crystals melt. and thats not the case. The sky starts out the blue in the mourning and by noon we have multiple polluted looking clouds that is casting haze over the entire sky. 2) I watched an entire afternoon, and multiple times I have seen planes turn around and come back and spray at there discression. The only plane that could do that with out following flight patterns is the millitary. Which makes for a great cover up. Our government are masters at cover ups. 3) I have called the EPA and Air quality control at what I have seen and observed and they will not reply or check and investigate into the matter. I get bogus answers, oh its just regular pollution from the plane, or the contrails….but they cant explain why it doesnt disappate then at lower altitudes. So don’t be so nieve….Check into it. You will get the go around I garentee it! I am a scientist, and the answers I have gotten don’t jive. I wouldnt put alot of faith in our top leadership, such as WHO, EPA, FDA, and Pharmacuticals!! All the big buracrats are in it for control and $$$. Sorry if this makes some of you mad. Truely start digging and you will get the real answer if you dont believe me. Wake up people and start doing something. Because doing nothing is opposite of what you should be doing. See you your self, I give you the challenge!!

  18. 1) one its impossible for the planes to give ice crystals that fall into the sky and spread for hours. As the crystals drop in altitude so should the crystals melt. and thats not the case.

    Not true. The crystals in a contrail are just the same as the crystals in a high altitude ice cloud. They are tiny crystals, held in suspension in the air just like in any cloud (and remember ice actually weighs less than water, by volume).

    So contrails can stay up there just as long as clouds do.

  19. Jay Reynolds says:

    Pat, you say you are a scientist. Evidently, your area of expertise isn’t atmospheric science.

    Usually, a scientist who is unfamiliar with a subject consults others who are specialists, or reads scientific papers about the subject. Judging from your questions, you haven’t done either of those things.

    I’d suggest you first read the articles on the left margin of his website, and do as I suggest above if you want further details. Get back to us.

    Uncinus is correct above, the ice crystals might drop but will not generally melt because they don’t drop fast or far enough to reach temperatures aloft below freezing. You will learn in the articles to the left that contrails form at temperatures of -40F, and temperatures only increase with decreasig altitude by +3.5F for each 1000 feet, so in order for an ice particle to reach melting alitude, 70 degrees warmer, it would have to fall 20,000 feet.

    But, as is plain and clear, clouds composed even of water don’t fall out of the sky, even though the entire cloud contains many tons of water! And ice crystals weigh less than water. So, if you are waiting for ice crystals from contrails to fall down 4 miles you might wait practically forever……or just about as long as it might take for Michael J. Murphy to admit he was wrong about chemtrails…..

  20. MikeC says:

    Pat says: “2) I watched an entire afternoon, and multiple times I have seen planes turn around and come back and spray at there discression. The only plane that could do that with out following flight patterns is the millitary. Which makes for a great cover up. Our government are masters at cover ups.”

    why do you think that only military aircraft can turn around in the sky??

    Here is wiki’s article on aviation holding patterns: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holding_pattern

    also your description is not very clear – if there were aitrcraft flying one way and then the other along a similar flight path then that is entirely consistent with civil aviation flying to and from routes. They may be the same aircraft, but if so then they have probably landed and taken off again. Most likely they are different aircraft that are flying simlar routes in an increasingly crowded sky.

  21. al says:

    Trou de cul ..vendu .Vous nous prenez pour des cons…même avec ce site de désinformation nous savons que opération mondial d’épandage aérosol est en court ..et ces pas vos conneries ridicules qui tiennent pas la route qui va changer ca..bande de traître a l’humanité!!

    [google translation]
    Asshole .. sold [sellout?]. You take us for idiots … even with this site disinformation operation we know that global aerosol spraying is short .. and not these ridiculous bullshit you not take the road which will change ca .. band traitor to humanity!

  22. Steve Funk says:

    Al, si vous avez des preuves, montrez les nous. If you have any evidence of an ongoing aerosol spray program, show it to us. Since you follow this site, you probably speak English better than my French, and just like to post in French to make the obscenities a little less obvious.

  23. nopplerairsoloution says:


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