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On the trail of contrails

So persistent is the chemtrail theory that it has been discussed on radio talk shows, raised by politicians, while US government agencies report calls from irate citizens demanding an explanation. The trails which arouse the most suspicion are those that remain visible for a long time, dispersing into cirrus-like cloud formations, or those from multiple aircraft which form a persistent noughts-and-crosses-style grid over a large area.


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Proponents of the conspiracy theory offer a variety of explanations. It is an attempt to control global warming, according to some, while others cite far more sinister goals, such as human population control, psychological manipulation, and military weapons testing.

Chemtrails Versus Contrails

The trails, it is claimed, are to blame for health problems and respiratory illness. These claims took root in the Nineties, with the publication of a US Air Force research paper about weather modification. Governments and scientific institutions have, of course, dismissed the theories, and insist those vapour trails which persist for longer than usual, or disperse to cover a wide area, are just normal contrails.

The variety of contrails seen in the sky is due to atmospheric conditions and altitude, they say, while grid-like contrails are merely a result of the large number of planes that travel along the same well-worn flight lanes. Patrick Smith, a US pilot, dismisses the conspiracy theory in his book about air travel, Cockpit Confidential. Water vapour, strange as it might sound, is a byproduct of the combustion within jet engines, which is where the humidity comes from. Whether a contrail forms is contingent on altitude and the ambient atmospheric makeup — mainly temperature and something known as vapour pressure.

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It clearly didn't work. The EPA reissued the document as recently as Of these emittants, only water vapour is necessary for contrail formation. Newly formed ice particles will continue to grow in size by taking water from the surrounding atmosphere. The resulting line-shaped contrail extends for large distances behind an aircraft. Persistent contrails can last for hours while growing to several kilometers in width and to meters in height. Contrails spread because of air turbulence created by the passage of aircraft, differences in wind speed along the flight track, and possibly through effects of solar heating.

Military aircraft will sometimes fly at a particular altitude to avoid producing them, and therefore evade detection. Also, when a plane is travelling towards an observer on the ground, it may emit a contrail that appears to be vertical.

Why do jets leave a white trail in the sky?

Brad Pitt is to blame for this one. In the film Fight Club, his character Tyler Durden says the following:. Oxygen gets you high. In a catastrophic emergency, you're taking giant panicked breaths. Suddenly you become euphoric, docile. You accept your fate.


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It's all right here [points at an emergency instruction manual on a plane]. Emergency water landing — miles an hour. Blank faces, calm as Hindu cows. This, of course, is nonsense.

Vapour Trails | Silent Season

Those oxygen masks could well save your life — and they definitely don't get you high. The soot provides condensation sites for the water vapor. Any particles present in the air provide additional sites. Depending on a plane's altitude, and the temperature and humidity of the atmosphere, contrails may vary in their thickness, extent and duration.

The nature and persistence of jet contrails can be used to predict the weather. A thin, short-lived contrail indicates low-humidity air at high altitude, a sign of fair weather, whereas a thick, long-lasting contrail reflects humid air at high altitudes and can be an early indicator of a storm.

Vapour Trails, Part 1: THE GATHERING

The mixing gases contained in the contrail rotate with respect to the ambient air. These regions of rotating flow are called vortices.

Any sharp surface, such as the tip of a wing, can cause vortical flow in its wake if it is sufficiently large or the flow is sufficiently fast. On occasion, these trailing vortices may interact with one another. In one well-known example of this fact, the Crow Instability causes the vortices to develop symmetric sinusoidal oscillations and eventually to merge and form vortex rings behind the jet. This instability can be triggered by turbulence in the surrounding air or by local variation in air temperature or density, which may itself be the result of the stratification of the atmosphere.

When the contrails are visible and strong, it is possible to see the white streaks become wavy and then leave rings floating high in the sky, like smoke rings from a giant cigar. Recent research has suggested that the ice clouds contained in contrails cause greenhouse effects and contribute to global warming as part of the insulating blanket of moisture and gases in the atmosphere.

Researchers in this area seized on the opportunity presented on September 11 and 12 over the U.