Throughout my entire life, there is one thing that has never failed to puzzle me: the cloud-like trails airplanes leave in the sky. But, today, I found the answer. After some simple researching and the impending doom of the December 2nd blog period deadline, I finally know what that little trail is: contrails (or, if you want to get technical about it, condensation trails). These small trails form in the sky when water vapor from jet exhaust freezes in the cold air surrounding it; thus, leaving a visible icy trail. Contrails fade away with time, but, in some cases, they disperse and leave a cloud-like trail. I thought it simple enough, and was prepared to write a brief yet concise blog post on the science behind it. However, my research took me far beyond the basics of contrails.
Apparently, some people are terrified of dispersed contrails because of the “chemtrail” conspiracy theory (1). This theory suggests that “chemtrails” left behind by aircrafts were contrails manipulated by the government to disperse in order to reach 2 possible outcomes:
1. Government-induced biological warfare.
2. Weather modification!
Because of the abundance of information on this topic, it will be divided into 2 blog posts- a blog post per possible outcome- where Part I will focus on government-induced biological warfare and Part II will focus on weather modification.
People who believe in the “chemtrail” conspiracy theory seem to be convinced the government is purposefully harming people. Numerous claims have been made including “proof” that “chemtrails” are real. However, the “proof” presented is often anecdotal or lacks any real scientific basis and can be easily dismissed with logic and actual scientific research. Below are the three main points made by skeptics and the actual science behind them.
- Grid patterns and gaps: Although they may seem it, these grid-like patterns are not a thoroughly thought-out mapping of where to spray toxins. In fact, these patterns are a
result of winds spreading out and moving contrails towards highly-trafficked air travel lanes. Once in flight, a commercial aircraft’s altitude makes encountering winds surpassing 100 mph common. Because of this, the contrails left behind by airplanes in a moist environment will disperse and expand, often resembling a grid-like pattern visible from the ground and space. One thing that is easy to notice is that contrails are only seen once planes are high up in the atmosphere; you will never see them near areas of a plane’s take-off or landing because the low altitude is not an environment where contrails can steadily form (2). The visible T-shaped gaps left behind in trails are supposedly the work of turning the nozzle that sprays the toxins into the air on and off. In reality, this phenomena can be explained by humidity variations in the atmosphere. Because planes have a route to follow, they pass through different levels of humidity and moisture. This causes contrails to be broken up, oftentimes coinciding with one another and forming T-shaped and Z-shaped structures.
- “Spray planes” have been photographed: Facebook fanatics went into a frenzy when strange pictures of metal cylindrical tanks inside aircrafts surfaced. They reasoned they had to be solid proof of “chemtrail” aircrafts and took to spreading the news without checking the facts first (3). In reality, these are either firefighting planes or planes filled with ballast barrels, which are used to simulate passenger weight when testing out aircrafts. These barrels are usually full of water, and can be pumped across the barrels to simulate different types of weight throughout the testing of the aircraft. Ballast tanks are also responsible for the submersion of submarines, which can be explained here.
- Chemtrail spraying is dumping lithium into our atmosphere: This is perhaps the only true claim made towards “chemtrails.” However, contrary to conspiracy theorists beliefs and their word choice, NASA is not dumping lithium into the air to sedate the American people (4). NASA is actually using lithium to study winds and atmospheric occurrences in the atmosphere. In some cases, lithium is part of a chemical combination used as a propellant for rockets. What the people arguing against lithium fail to acknowledge (which can be described by the Texas sharpshooter fallacy) is that lithium is naturally found in water, soil, and edible products. Because there is a correlation between the government using lithium for aerial testing and lithium being used to treat mental disorders, people have assumed the cause is the government wanting to control and sedate Americans so they will become more susceptible to propaganda. However, science tells us that correlation does not equal causation. Therefore, this “proof” is just speculation, and concrete evidence providing mutual exclusivity between the factors of this correlation still needs to be found.
However, perhaps the biggest factor showing that these dispersed contrails are not actually “chemtrails” lies with the United States’ banning of biological warfare through environmental modification in 1972 (with global ratification entering to force in 1978). It seems like the “chemtrail” conspiracy theory supporters’ “proofs” rely solely on anecdotal evidence. There are many factors that contribute to the validity of an anecdotal evidence, including bias, manipulation, and confusion. Because this hypothesis non-falsifiable, it can only currently remain a conspiracy theory. Therefore, unless indisputable scientific evidence is found linking “chemtrails” and government genocide, we can safely say that the government is not trying to induce biological warfare on United States citizens.
(1) In where a “chemtrail” refers to the dispersed version of a contrail.
(2) This leads us to reason that if the government wanted to spray toxins through contrails, they probably would not choose an airplane to do so, but rather an agricultural aircraft because its low fly-range would be ideal.
(3) Clicking on the image will take you to a thread where you can see the picture more clearly. Read the comments, they are absurd.
(4) Lithium is used to help treat symptoms of manic and bipolar disorders through lithium salts.