Chemtrails conspiracy: Are contrails in the sky dangerous?

At high altitudes (many miles above the Earth’s surface), the exhaust from an airplane’s engines or a shift in atmospheric pressure may cause a line of clouds to form, known as a contrail or vapor trail. In the form of ice crystals, water serves as the primary component of contrails.

Whenever an airplane flies, it produces a condensation trail or contrail. Do these vapor trails pose no threat, or are they part of a plot to poison the populace via chemtrails? While the latter may remain a conspiracy theory, it’s clear that man-made clouds are doing more damage than good by contributing to global warming.

What you need to know about chemtrails

  • White trails occasionally seen in the sky behind aircraft are called contrails.
  • Primarily, they are made up of frozen water vapor and aerosols like soot. Only at altitudes of 8,000 to 12,000 meters can contrails occur.
  • The term “chemtrails” is sometimes used to describe this occurrence. As such, they are the subject of one of the most widely held conspiracy theories.
  • Its followers believe that chemical spraying by aircraft is an intentional attempt to subjugate humanity. But this is not supported by any evidence.
  • Chemicals and contrails (condensation trail) make up the word “chemtrail.” So, there are no actual chemical ingredients that create them.
  • Since they are not harmful to us, the effects of condensation trails on the environment are more severe than on people. Researchers have concluded that contrails exacerbate global warming by adding to the greenhouse effect.

How contrails are formed

Forms like circles and geometric patterns may be seen in contrails, depending on factors including altitude, aircraft type, and weather. (Credit: MetOffice)

Long and skinny, contrails are man-made clouds. Those clouds are known as “man-made cirrus clouds” by meteorologists.

Typically, contrails may be seen high in the troposphere. Between 8,000 and 15,000 meters is where you’ll find this part of Earth’s atmosphere. Mount Everest, for context, stands at an impressive height of 8,848 meters.

Kerosene is used to power airplane engines. The byproducts of the combustion of this fuel are largely water vapor and carbon dioxide (CO2), along with other particles like soot. The droplets form as water molecules once bonded to this soot.

Ice crystals develop when they come into contact with the chilly ambient air. This, however, can only take place if the temperature drops to very low levels. Long-haul planes’ cruising altitude may reach temperatures as low as -50 degrees Celsius.

When flying in dry air, contrails soon evaporate. In contrast, artificial clouds may expand and last for a number of hours if the surrounding air is highly humid.

Even contrails may be disrupted sometimes, because of variations in the ambient water vapor.

The layers of the Earth’s atmosphere and the altitude of planes

curving contrail
Curved flight is also required by aircraft at times, such as when nearing a landing. Next, an arcing contrail begin to take shape. (Credit: Durango Herald)

There are five distinct layers to Earth’s atmosphere, each corresponding to a different altitude:

  • Troposphere: 0 to circa 15 kilometers.
  • Stratosphere: 15 to about 50 kilometers
  • Mesosphere: 50 to about 80 kilometers
  • Thermosphere: 80 to about 500 kilometers
  • Exosphere: from about 500 kilometers

Aircraft typically fly in the troposphere, which has an altitude limit of 10–15 kilometers.

At a height of around 100 kilometers lies the so-called Kármán line. It denotes the transition from Earth-bound flight to space travel. In the 1950s, the international aviation organization Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI) established the Kármán Line.

The arguments put forward by proponents of the chemtrails conspiracy

The chemtrails conspiracy theorists think aircraft are spraying people with poisonous substances on purpose.

There have been rumors that the aircrafts’ underbelly flaps hide covert spraying systems.

It is uncertain where this idea came from. No proof supports its existence, yet it has been floating about the Internet since the mid-1990s.

The “elite” are allegedly responsible for chemtrails. Conspiracy theorists believe their end purpose is either to make people ill or to keep them under control. It has been speculated that the “Secret Large-Scale Atmospheric Program” (SLAP) is the driving force behind this.

chemtrail contrail
The form of contrails is affected by the wind, which often blows at high speeds in the upper stratosphere. (Credit: Yellowpaul/Getty)

Some people think the weather is already being affected by chemtrails. It has been speculated that a covert initiative codenamed “Shield” was established by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for this same reason.

The fact that contrails may be seen in clear skies, that they can linger for extended periods of time, that they are unique to certain aircraft, and that they are more commonly seen than ever before gives credence to those who believe in conspiracies.

Some people who believe in the chemtrails conspiracy advocate for the use of copper pipes, which they claim may discharge contaminants into the soil, or an aluminum hat.

Even while the “chemtrails” notion may seem like a joke, it’s frequently not. The Federal Agency for Civic Education notes that there are conspiracy theorists that share ties to right-wing extremism and focus on this issue.

The scientific evidence against the chemtrails theory

  • Even in a cloudless sky, contrails can still form for a very simple reason. The air could be less saturated with moisture for natural clouds to form, unlike contrails.
  • At this height, supersaturation of 40% causes the formation of natural cirrus clouds. But if you want to create contrails, 20% is already enough.
  • These man-made clouds can only be created by certain flights since the exhaust gases from newer planes are much more temperate. Since they contain more water, ice crystals are more likely to develop.
  • Modern airplanes also cruise at greater altitudes and produce more vapor as a byproduct. Since this is the case, contrails tend to be more durable.
  • Due to a dramatic rise in aviation traffic, there are currently much more contrails than in the past. The World Bank estimates that there were 642 million travelers using airlines in 1980. Today, it is around 4.5 billion.
  • Therefore, the supposed Secret Large-Scale Atmospheric Program (SLAP) to manipulate humanity through the atmosphere is not supported by scientific data.
  • Many professionals and organizations have come to the same conclusion: there are no actual chemtrails, just contrails.

Can contrails affect the weather?

contrail plane cloud
Planes at varying heights may cause stripes to overlap. (Credit: Adrian Pingstone)

The greenhouse effect is exacerbated by contrails because they block the planet’s surface from cooling down by venting heat into space. The surface of the planet, therefore, heats up. This is a factor in the acceleration of global warming.

Airplanes’ CO2 emissions contribute to global warming, but contrails contribute considerably more.

The claim that chemtrails may alter the weather via human intervention is false. Yet there are researchers who are eager to give it a go. Only theoretical models and simulations exist at this time.

Scientists want to slow the rate of global warming or lower atmospheric CO2 levels via the use of geoengineering. The term “Solar Radiation Management” (SRM) describes a strategy that might reduce the amount of heat from the sun that reaches Earth. For that, sulfur dioxide is released into the stratosphere, where it reacts with oxygen to form sulfate aerosols. After the rays hit them, they’re reflected. Global warming may be slowed or stopped if the lower atmosphere is cooled.

Many researchers, however, express concern about the unanticipated results of geoengineering projects, including their potential effects on the climate. For instance, droughts and floods might become more common.

What is SRM technology, and how does it function?

Many scientists feel that “Solar Radiation Management” (SRM) might be beneficial to civilization, despite the fact that the technology has only been tried in computer models thus far. However, it does provide certain risks for some areas: Droughts in certain regions and the failure of the Asian summer monsoon are only two examples. The long-term effects are unknown at this time. The concentration of ozone near the ground may also decrease.

Meanwhile, we’d have to keep releasing sulfur into the stratosphere indefinitely. This is because the devastating effects of global warming would be seen immediately if SRM were abruptly discontinued. And the end outcome of this would be “termination shock.”

Many professionals still advise against putting this study into practice. Factors including the potential for international conflict, treaties, liability, and the possibility of interference in regional climates all need to be considered.

The FAQ regarding chemtrails

Where do contrails come from?

A contrail is a man-made cloud of ice crystals that often forms in the troposphere. As the heated, water-laden exhaust particles from the plane collide with the very cold air outside, they condense into these clouds.

Are we being manipulated by chemtrails?

Many people, including those who believe in the chemtrail conspiracy, think that clouds in the sky are really chemical vapors. The “elites” allegedly spray them to influence the populace, make people ill, or alter the weather. In this case, proof is lacking.

What role do contrails have in global warming, if any at all?

Based on the angle of the sun, the ground temperature, and the amount of cloud cover, contrails may have either a warming or cooling impact.

By Bertie Atkinson

Bertie Atkinson is a history writer at Malevus. He writes about diverse subjects in history, from ancient civilizations to world wars. In his free time, he enjoys reading, watching Netflix, and playing chess.