Chemtrails again: Part of a losing battle?

(Photo by Roger Ahlbrand)

I get daily letters from strangers. Only a few come from our mid-Hudson region. My monthly page in Astronomy magazine and the 400,000 readers of my Old Farmer’s Almanac astronomy stuff generate lots of correspondence. This week, two letters stand out. They are such polar opposites, they created a strange juxtaposition.

One was from an acquaintance who for decades wrote a popular column in Sky & Telescope magazine, which is on the brink of vanishing, since its parent company has just gone bankrupt. He reminded me of another former writer, George Lovi, who knew the sky so well that a planetarium company hired him to study the dome projected by their equipment to assess if any little star might be absent or out of place.

Imagine that kind of knowledge! The letter-writer too knows the sky intimately, and was very aware that I do as well, though not to the astonishing extent of Lovi. “We are the last of our breed,” he wrote to me, “the final buffalo in a disappearing herd.”


The second letter was a ten-page screed displaying frank paranoia. The writer asked if I’m aware of the dangers posed by chemtrails: the spraying of mind-controlling or health-damaging chemicals supposedly perpetrated by the government.

Some quick research uncovered a disconcerting trend. A Public Policy Research survey in 2015 revealed that five percent of the US population was convinced that at least some of the white lines behind high-altitude planes are chemicals deliberately sprayed by the government. The same poll conducted last year now shows that 15 percent of Americans are “certain” that chemtrails are real, while another 20 percent believe it is “somewhat true.” Thus, a third of the population is at least partially convinced of an ongoing, health-threatening government spraying program that does not exist.

There’s very little pushback. One YouTube video by shows decades of books about clouds that consistently explain how water vapor released by jet engines freezes to produce contrails. Every cloud book going back 70 years explains that, depending on temperature and humidity, a contrail may evaporate within a few minutes or instead spread out to form a cloud sheet that can endure for hours. Thus, while chemtrailers insist that real contrails dissipate rapidly, all the lingering, spreading cloud sheets they say are chemical releases are actually a basic variety of normal contrails observed and photographed since World War II.

Obviously, any long-term spraying of these supposedly harmful metals would result in ground contamination, whereas countless soil analyses and ongoing water-monitoring show no such metal increases. Such logic is invariably met with paranoiac rebuttals that all these seemingly normal analyses have been faked.

Those of us who are longtime pilots and friends of career air-transport pilots find the whole idea ludicrous – not just because such a continuous operation could not possibly be performed clandestinely, but because how would you begin to find thousands of air traffic controllers, pilots and other participants willing to poison their own families on the ground below?

And for what purpose? The conspiracy folks cite either government mind control or else climate “geoengineering.” Believers in the conspiracy sometimes cite actual published “evidence” like the HAARP program in which high-altitude chemicals were released for scientific studies.

One citation listed as a “proof” on conspiracy websites was an announcement of a new aerosol measles vaccine. The fearmongers didn’t bother reporting that this aerosol wasn’t designed to be sprayed from planes, but rather administered individually via face masks.

The main takeaway is that we live in a country where a third of its citizens believe in imaginary chemtrails, while 42 percent support a president who is patently unqualified for the office. A country whose citizens keep scoring a D-minus on the National Science Foundation’s annual “Ten basic true/false science questions.”

We have identified less than one millionth of Earth’s estimated microbe species. Our planet’s changing climate demands that the public understand the simple mechanism behind greenhouse gases. We need people to grasp why, if the air’s carbon dioxide concentration has climbed from 280 parts per million to the current 406 PPM, this is a powerful, worrisome development – and fully see that it is unequivocally caused by human fossil fuel emissions.

With a universe screaming to be explored, we need the public to have a baseline grasp of logic and science. But hope for the fulfillment of that necessity keeps dissolving like those strange white lines in the sky.

And now – forgive me – you’ll understand my present mood, caused by the sobering reality that arrived with this week’s mail.

Want to know more? To read Bob’s previous columns, visit our Almanac Weekly website at Check out Bob’s podcast, Astounding Universe, co-hosted by Pulse of the Planet’s Jim Metzner.

There are 6 comments

  1. George Goodwin

    You write an article that doesn’t use much science to prove the chemtrail conspiracy false. The theory is false, but you need to throw as much data as possible at these people. Then, just for good measure, you have to throw an anti-Trump comment into the article.

  2. FunkieGunkie

    This article is naive. The author fails to explain that geoengineering or cloud seeding is in fact very real. The government and scientists openly talk about these and other forms of atmospheric manipulation with the intended result of lowering the solar radiation penetrating the earth’s atmosphere for the result of lowering of the earth’s surface temperature. There are many other kinds of methods such as stratospheric aerosols and HAARP. Do your homework before you try and debunk well known scientific theories and research. Simple google searches will reveal plenty of research in this area that goes back over 50+ years. And if you still don’t believe it you can go to one of many conferences where these methods are discussed among scholars, scientists, and peers.

  3. AFriend

    The commenters got you on this one, Bob.

    1. You insist that the science disproves contrails ideas.
    2. Your two points about science are observations of water vapor, and lack of chemical buildup on the ground.
    3. Your other points about science don’t really pertain to this topic—they’re about test takers getting a D; carbon ppm; and some “scientific point” about Trump.

    You should build up bullet #2 to better make your case.

    Signed, a friend

  4. The sheep looked up...

    Bob, why did you write an article with the word chemtrails in the title? Clicks? Little of your article actually deals with chemtrailing so perhaps it is you who is patently unqualified. You didn’t even bother to regurgitate the routine reason cited for why chemtrails are ‘good for us”. I won’t bother repeating it because it doesn’t hold up and they clearly worsen the problem they are purported to address.

    So you say you did a little “quick research.” Clearly inadequate. You didn’t take a clear position except to as far as to put down President Trump (and your very own readers who support him!) which says quite a lot about you and nothing of the topic. (Get paid by the word?) You were also careful not to cite any research for your unfounded claim that there is no chemical residue in our soil and water, and you steered clear of educating readers about chemtrails.

    The aluminum, barium, and strontium that are the main ingredients of chemtrails obviously show up in chemical analyses in dangerously increasing amounts, along with other uncommon and toxic nano particles and processed biological material. For a brief view of the concerns, try this:

  5. Anonymous

    You don’t believe in chemtrails ask the people of AZ. Who had town meeting about the aluminum and the other chemicals in their blood streams and they don’t call it chemtrails they call it geoengineering I’ve seen the trails stay in the sky for hours without breaking up when your out west you notice it.
    Everything is not a conspiracy

Comments are closed.