The True Nature of Contrails

If you’d like a clear view of what creates Jet Contrails just:

Click for Facts…

If you don’t think that jet travel could be playing a major role in either climate change, or modified atmospheric chemistry, then you probably don’t need to dive into this deeper exploration. If however you see Climate Change as an enormous combination of factors, you might find some points of interests below. There is far more at play here than even the most outrageous “Chemetrail Conspiracy” has ever even touched upon.

In our explorations of jet exhaust and ‘vapour contrails‘ and the impact of air travel on our Future Environment, we’ve made previous attempts to speculate upon why certain channels in the Mainstream Media have taken interest in a rather weak Conspiracy Theory like “Chemtrails”, rather than digging into the underlying science of Contrails (and environmental impact of jet exhaust) for a bonefide piece of investigative journalism on a possibly much deeper conspiracy.

Jet airliner chemtrails are contrailsIf there’s such a thing as covering up an actual conspiracy with weaker, more easily discredited, conspiracy theories, then it’s quite possible that the airline industry knows full well that its altering the stratosphere, and affecting the environment. That the prevalence of “Chemtrail” theories might simply be serving to throw people off the trail by simply associating any negative environmental news about airliners with more easily dismissed “conspiracy theories”. It certainly not as simple as a supposedly well-intentioned geo-engineering initiative. - LM Flight 9165 from Amsterdam to Dubai alt


Why is the Media Failing Us…Again

The best explanation we’ve derived for such shallow reporting on the highly speculative and poorly substantiated subject of Chemtrails could be found in the ongoing trend for rather deficient Science and Climate reporting in general.

After years of  “restructuring” most media outlets have been gutted, and are now more geared towards simply relaying/rewriting central news agency/wire stories, rather than undertaking their own independent investigations and research. So aside from the largest, or most specialized operations, the vast majority of mainstream news outlets are now just systematically lacking the resources to properly report on complex subjects.

Amidst the informational fog that obscures Climate Science complexities, it’s no wonder that most people are easily drawn into the ‘ipso facto‘ or linear logic of easily adopted Chemtrail theories, rather than trying to track down and digest the much more convoluted causes and environmental effects of the (changing?) vapor contrails emanating from jet airliners. Which is what we’ll endeavour to do here instead…


If you’d like to consider our own counter-speculations on why the Mainstream Media has taken up a thin selection of climate/conspiracy stories, and presented them as hard news, then just click here. Otherwise, let’s put some realistic perspective on the recent popularity of Chemtrails, by establishing some factual foundations for their exact causes, and the under-exposed environmental risk that they might represent. - Flying in very high stratus clouds hence the enormous contrail. alt

Lets Start with Some Facts…

Vapor trails are the condensation of the water vapor that is present (to varying degrees) both in the atmosphere, and introduced by jet exhaust. As you can see in the fabulous picture above, condensation not only comes from jet exhaust but can also form via aerodynamic effects as well. Anyone who has seen an F1 race, or sat at a rear/mid-cabin window seat in in hot/humid conditions has possibly seen this in the vortices that form around the wing surfaces. The picture above shows the ideal conditions required for the plane surfaces to produce this aero-condensation.

An Important Distinction

The reason why vapor contrails form thin trails that dissipate in one area, while forming persistent/lingering trails in other areas, and even build up over each other to form cloud cover in heavily trafficked regions, is because of the ever-changing relative humidity/temperature in the atmosphere. Keep in mind that the atmosphere is the furthest thing from a homogenized mass of air, and conditions can change radically depending on altitude, and even within the relatively small amount of sky visible to an observer at ground level.

Satellite View of jet Contrails over North Sea

To put things simply, if the relative humidity is low (in a particular region/altitude), moisture in the jet exhaust will visibly generate a vapor trail that will condense into microscopic droplets, (and possibly freeze) somewhere behind the engine exhaust (where it cools) and appears as a white “smoke” or thin cloud, which will then quickly dissipate into the air under dry conditions.

If however the relative humidity is high enough in a cold airmass (such as cirrus or cirrostratus), then the warmer vapor trails from jet engines hitting this cold humidity will not only form a thick trail of ice crystals of their own, but also act as a catalyst that starts a process of accelerated condensation of the ambient water vapor around it by pushing humidity past its saturation point, and which is amplified through the process of “nucleation described below.

This process can continue to the point where contrails not only persist for very long periods (as elongated clouds), but can also set off a chain reaction of condensation which can result in very thick contrails forming (man-made?) clouds, and even trigger the onset of cloudier/shadier (cooler) weather in general if the conditions are just right.

This is the same general process whereby clouds will seemingly form out of thin air and grow, except that instead of airflow triggered condensation, the contrails act as a trigger by not only adding extra water vapor from the exhaust (which can act as a tipping point in the relative humidity), but also by adding “aerosols” to the air as well…Which is a fancy word for particulate matter…or dust.

It is these aerosols that greatly enhance the formation of vapor trails through “nucleation” since the particles act as a nucleus for water droplets/crystals to form around, grow, and generate much thicker, persistent clouds.

Contrails Are Indiscriminate

Notice in the satellite picture (above) of the North Sea in 1998 how the contrails are constrained to a specific region that clearly promotes their formation. So unless the Chemtrail Theorists suggest that this is a plan to kill marine life in the North Sea (or some other dastardly deed), this serves to demonstrate that Contrails are dependent on climate conditions, and cannot be expected to form (or dissipate) consistently from a single observers point of view.

So next big factor to consider is that jet exhaust is not only comprised mostly of potent greenhouse gases such as cloud forming water and CO2, but that it also contains many aerosols that are actually pollutants, but supposedly these are nothing more exotic than what you would find by burning kerosene at ground level. Or so we would expect.

What we’ve touched on here with the idea of aerosols is actually the basis for cloud-seeding, which in turn opens up the Pandora box of both emissions control and climate engineering. Since this aspect of vapor Contrails can generate clouds that are large enough to act as both global warming and cooling agents (depending upon their altitude), while also acting as precipitating agents for toxins that are either in the emissions or already present in the atmosphere.

A Deeper Truth?

The other enormous factor that almost nobody is talking about is that when these seeded clouds form at night, they effectively counteract a natural nightly cooling process where infra-red heat rising from the ground gets reflected back down, instead of being allowed to escape out into space.

This is possibly where both the airline industries and the Coal Lobby have a shared interest in allowing toxic precipitates to be blamed on crackpot ChemTrail theories, rather than admitting that there’s a huge elephant in the room.  Perhaps we should pay more attention to how industrial toxins are getting precipitated back down out of the atmosphere with all the increased jet travel, rather than just falling into the ambiguous and murky traps of poorly constructed Chemtrail theories!

So to be perfectly clear, for anyone who believes that aerosol’s are produced exclusively from spray cans, or jet engines:

“Atmospheric aerosols are suspensions of solid and/or liquid particles in air. Aerosols are ubiquitous in air and are often observable as dust, smoke, and haze. Both natural and human processes contribute to aerosol concentrations.”

The important fact here is that aerosols are now, and have always been a key factor in the formation of heavier clouds and ultimately raindrops. This is where things start get more interesting…Because jet exhaust and industrial poluttants have definitely changed our atmospheric chemistry balance….and the Media lacks the resources to develop stories around this!

In the meantime…

If you’re wondering why “Chemtrail Conspiracy Theories” are getting so much play
in the Mainstream Media, feel free to consider the hidden dangers of
“Seeding Cloudy Conspiracies”

Boeing 777-2J6 aircrafts aerodynamics can produce contrails as well as the engines.

  1. 25/04/2010 at 10:52 AM

    To reduce the nasty effects of Jet Travel, we would need to figure out how to trade Time for reduced emissions along domestic flight routes:

  2. 25/04/2010 at 8:40 PM

    More on the destructive effects of mass air travel

  3. 26/04/2010 at 8:02 AM

    Will any clues come from the airline ban during the recent volcano ?

  1. 17/05/2010 at 10:12 AM

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