Conspiracy theories can be stubborn, particularly in the echo chamber of the internet.
One persistent belief in some quarters is that the government — or business, perhaps — is deploying a fleet of jet aircraft to spray chemicals into the sky to control the population, food supply or other things.
As evidence, they point to what they call “chemtrails,” which are more commonly known as contrails, or condensation trails, produced at high altitudes as water vapor in jet engine exhaust condenses and freezes.
Adding fuel to the chemtrails theory is the fact that there are a few legitimate reasons for atmospheric spraying — “seeding” clouds to make rain, for example — and in recent years there has been some research on the idea of spraying chemicals as a potential way to fight global warming.
But now, scientists have become more organized in their efforts to shoot down the idea, conducting a peer-reviewed study in Environmental Research Letters that debunks chemtrails supporters’ claims.
The goal, the researchers say, is not so much to change the minds of hard-core believers, but to provide a rebuttal — the kind that would show up in a Google search — to persuade other people to steer clear of this idea.
Steven J. Davis, a climate scientist at the University of California, Irvine, said he had the idea for the study after a conversation with a salesman at a mattress store.
When the man found out what he did for a living, Dr. Davis said, “he had very serious questions about what we were going to do about the chemtrails problem.”
Dr. Davis said that when he got home, he searched the internet for peer-reviewed studies on the conspiracy theory, but found none.
The theory has been popularized on websites that display photographs of contrails but are described instead as chemtrails that persist in the atmosphere and contain harmful chemicals like strontium, barium and aluminum.
One of my favorite conspiracy theories to debate is “chemtrails.” The factual explanations behind the puffy white lines are so fabulously simple, you’ve got to marvel at those who harbor this preposterous notion. Entertain no fear, intelligent reader, as this conspiracy can only be held by the least scientific among us. To argue with chembelievers is to feel both frustration and bewilderment manifest.
You’ll hear the battle cry of the Chemtrailers: “Wake up! Look up!” soliciting you to abandon your ability to research for the blind acceptance of anecdotal opinion. We live in a world where information is so readily accessible for anyone who chooses to pursue it. The challenge comes in vetting sources, and this seems to be the trap in to which Chemtrailers fall. They want so badly to be right about being sprayed, they will use any source available that serves their confirmation bias.
Contrails, as they’re known by the scientifically literate among us, are quite simply explained. In fact, NASA does quite a good job of expounding it:
“Contrails are clouds formed when water vapor condenses and freezes around small particles (aerosols) that exist in aircraft exhaust. Some of that water vapor comes from the air around the plane; and, some is added by the exhaust of the aircraft. The exhaust of an aircraft contains both gas (vapor) and solid particles. Both of these are important in the formation of contrails. Some elements of the exhaust gasses are not involved in contrail formation but do constitute air pollution. Emissions include carbon dioxide, water vapor, nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons such as methane, sulfates (SOx), and soot and metal particles.” 
Now the fun part…
“THERE’S CHEMIKILLS IN MY AIR.”
The quintessential Chemtrailer will claim that there are a host of chemicals being sprayed on us. In my experience, the most common particulates mentioned are aluminum, strontium, and barium. If these were being littered upon us in such volume as to cause detriment to our health, they would be easily detectable in soil and air samples yet, not surprisingly, no proof has been offered from any laboratory to date. Ask the conspiracy theorists to provide one; they can’t and they won’t.
“CONTRAILS DISSIPATE, BUT CHEMTRAILS DON’T.”
Some of the conspiracy theorists don’t want to seem as crazy and so they’ll justify their position by saying that chemtrails stay in the sky for hours while contrails dissipate quickly.
For many years, conspiracy theorists have claimed that the government conducts top-secret chemical testing in the skies above us. As evidence, they point to “chemtrails” — actually ordinary airplane contrails, or condensation trails — that, it’s claimed, have some sinister purpose.
In his conspiracy book “Above Top Secret,” Jim Marrs notes that “No one in a position of authority will admit that they exist, much less who is responsible, and what purpose they may serve. Unlike many mysteries, this one is visible to anyone who cares to look up on the days that large jets weave narrow and continuous vapor/chemical trails through the sky.”
It’s odd that conspiracy theorists are so certain they exist but can’t even agree on what, exactly, they are or what they do. Some say it’s a sinister government mind-control experiment. Others say the trails are a form of weather control. Still others insist that experimental drugs are being tested on unsuspecting urban populations.
Hard evidence of the existence of these chemtrails has been elusive, but earlier this week a video surfaced that claims to provide proof. It shows a plane landing in a fog, with what are claimed to be jets of chemicals spewing from the wings.
According to the breathless description on one website:
“A pilot of a commercial airliner made a mistake that irrefutably PROVES the existence of ‘CHEMTRAILS’— by forgetting to turn them off before he landed! We have video of the plane landing while still spraying CHEMTRAILS as it hits the runway. This is the first empirical evidence to back-up claims made (by) people, smeared as ‘conspiracy-theorists,’ who claimed airlines are being used by government to spray aerosols into the air without the knowledge or consent of the people being sprayed. With proof like this, the public now has legal standing to file lawsuits, utilize subpoenas and force discovery of evidence.”
This is not the first time that someone has claimed to have found hard evidence of chemtrails. In “Above Top Secret,” Marrs offers this evidence:
“One Louisiana TV station in late 2007 took upon itself the task of testing water captured under a crosshatch of aerial trails. According to investigative reporter Jeff Ferrell, ‘KSLA News 12 had the sample tested at a lab. The results: high level of barium, 6.8 parts per million, (ppm). That’s more than three times the toxic level set by the Environmental Protection Agency.’”
However, David E. Thomas, a physicist writing in Skeptical Inquirer science magazine, took a closer look at the KSLA report. Thomas notes:
“The actual video clearly shows 68.8 ug/L (micrograms per liter), or 68.8 ppb (parts per billion)…. 68.8 millionths of a gram per liter corresponds to 68.8 parts per billion, (and) the reporter was off by a factor of 100 because he read the ’68.8′ as ’6.8.’ Ferrell overestimated the amount of barium in the test report by a factor of 100…. The test result was not ‘three times the toxic level set by the EPA’; it was around 30 times less than the EPA’s toxic limit.”
So the alarming levels of barium that conspiracy theorist Jim Marrs cited as evidence of chemtrails was in fact a mistake created by a TV reporter’s poor math skills.
What about the new video showing explosive proof of chemtrails?
If conspiracists truly believe in their cause(s), why is it they must lie about, or distort, the truth?
This image depicts a large group of airline pilots marching in full uniform at an unidentified street protest. Each pilot in the picture is holding a placard that features a photograph apparently meant to illustrate “chemtrails” in the sky. The scene depicted in the image implies that the pilots are protesting against these supposed “chemtrails”.
The picture shows a real protest along with real marching pilots. However, they are certainly not protesting “chemtrails” nor in any way endorsing the absurd conspiracy theories surrounding the supposed existence and causes of such chemtrails. In fact, as the following source image illustrates, the pilots were protesting much more down-to-earth issues such as pilot pay and working conditions.
A September 29, 2011 Forbes article about the protest notes:
Hundreds of uniformed pilots, standing in stark contrast to the youthful Occupy Wall Street protesters, staged their own protest outside of Wall Street over the past couple of days, holding signs with the picture of the Hudson river crash asking “What’s a Pilot Worth” and others declaring “Management is Destroying Our Airline.” This comes after pilots at United asked a federal judge to halt the merger with Continental, arguing that the whole thing is proceeding too quickly.
The original picture can be seen in a 28 September 2011 Daily Mail article along with following caption
United: Over 700 Continental and United pilots, joined by additional pilots from other Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) carriers, demonstrate in front of Wall Street on Tuesday
The altered picture apparently originated from image website Dees Illustration Studio, which features a Political Satire section that hosts a number of similarly altered images, including other chemtrail pictures. It is unclear how or by who’s hand the image escaped from this original context and began circulating online.
Some readers might be wondering what the supposed “chemtrails” shown on the fake placards actually are. According to various paranoid conspiracy theorists, chemtrails are visible evidence that governments or big companies are secretly and deliberately dumping poisons into the earth’s atmosphere for their own nefarious purposes. Some theorists claim the poisons are dumped to make sure that citizens are chronically ill and therefore more easily controlled by governments or more likely to have need of expensive pharmaceutical products. Other suggest that the chem dumping is a clandestine operation to delay global warming. Several other, equally wacky, conspiracy theories have been suggested as possible causes of the trails.
In reality, the supposed chemtrails are just contrails. Contrails are condensation trails that form behind jet aircraft when they burn fuel in the upper troposphere. An in depth discussion about chemtrail conspiracy theories is available on the Skeptic’s Dictionary website.
Read More: Faux Image – Pilots Protesting Chemtrails
Debunked: ChemTrails and ChemClouds
A very high quality copy of this video and a link to the 1905 book “Cloud Studies” is available at: http://tinyurl.com/7ezxt5n. Feel free to download the video and re-post on video sharing websites.
- How to Debunk Chemtrails (illuminutti.com)
- Geoengineering “Chemtrails” Over the Pacific? (illuminutti.com)
- ECT Follow-up: Chemtrails and Vinegar (illuminutti.com)
- The 12 Most Popular Economic Conspiracy Theories (illuminutti.com)
- Conspirators’ hot air on cool trails (stuff.co.nz)
- Whose hand? (illuminutti.com)
June 16, 2012 UPDATE: The group mentioned in this post (Chemtrail Geoengineering Lawsuit) now has a web page located at http://chemtrailgeoengineeringlawsuit.webs.com/
If you wish to discuss this issue, i suggest one of my favorite discussion forums: Metabunk.org
The Chemtrail Geoengineering Lawsuit over on facebook is a group «for those interested in filing a lawsuit for Geoengineering and Chemtrails that have evidence of Chemtrail toxins such as Barium, Aluminum, Strontium and other toxins in their blood or hair, urine, soil [or] rain water.»
I love it when people waste their time chasing phantoms down dead end streets. Anyway …
May 5, 2012 they boasted of having “1700 potential plaintiffs” in their complaint (and “growing VERY fast”), and they asked people to send money to their California attorney.
May 16, 2012 update: With 1,823 members of this group, this is the wall post:
Seriously ChemTrailers? 1,823 people in your group and not one dime has been given to your cause? We’re talking global catastrophe, the end of humanity as we know it! You need to participate – vinegar spraying is cheap, you must cough up some real money and expose this world-wide conspiracy!!!!
Then this just 5 hours ago:
I. Am. Crushed.
- ChemTrail Discussion
- Debunked: ChemTrails and ChemClouds (Video)
- Kill ChemTrails With Vinegar!!!!! (Video) (Spoof)