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Chemtrails: DEBUNKED

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Christopher S Lozano

Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction. Other times, fiction is just plain fiction. Many believe that the cloud-like streaks that seem to emanate from the back of an aircraft’s wings are actually part of a grand conspiracy perpetrated by the government against its people. Join WatchMojo as we debunk one of the most widespread conspiracy theories: chemtrails.


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Script written by Christopher Lozano

Chemtrails: DEBUNKED

Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction. Other times, fiction is just plain fiction. People can be susceptible to believing some strange things . . . Let’s take the chemtrails conspiracy as an example.

What exactly are chemtrails? Well, they’re the white, cloud-like streaks that seem to emanate from the back of an aircraft’s wings. You can see these lines behind many planes if the atmospheric conditions are right and if the aircraft is high enough in the sky. Some people, however, believe that this normal occurrence is actually part of a grand conspiracy perpetrated by the government against its people.

These trails are called condensation trails, or contrails. They are basically clouds formed by changes in air pressure behind an aircraft or from the exhaust of a jet engine. When the temperature is low enough, the water vapors from the engine create long, thin cloud formations. These human-made cloud formations can last anywhere from a few seconds to several hours. Conversely, when a plane passes through naturally occurring clouds, it can produce the opposite effect, leaving empty streaks inside cloud formations.

However, some people believe that condensation trails should naturally dissipate much quicker than they actually do, meaning that this supposedly normal phenomenon is actually part of a larger conspiracy. They claim that in order for a trail to hold its shape, there must be additional chemicals or additives involved. Hence the term “chemtrails”. While it is true that contrails likely contain particles from inside the aircraft’s engines, people believe there must be something more. Much more.

Some think that these mystery chemicals are being used to do one of several things. One theory is that chemtrails are an effort to reduce global warming. By spreading stratospheric sulfur aerosols, solar radiation can be reflected away, thereby reducing the temperature of the Earth.

Another theory is that these trails are a form of cloud-seeding. By spreading silver iodide, potassium iodide, or other chemicals into a cloud, it can actually be induced to rain or snow. Conversely, they can be used to reduce fog and hail around airports.

Yet another wild theory proposes that the massive drought in California between 2011 and 2017 was supposedly caused by modifying the weather. This was mainly done by seeding clouds or bringing the government’s HAARP (or, High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program) to bear on the state.

An even more dark theory is that there are chemicals in these chemtrails which are used to manipulate our psychology and mood. By essentially crop-dusting us, our government is either trying to make us more passive and compliant or more aggressive and confrontational, depending on which conspiracy theorist you ask.

They can also supposedly be used to control human population growth. This can either be by making humans infertile or manipulating our sex drives. Even more nefariously, they can be used to cause serious health problems for people exposed to them.

Of course, these things are all, of course, being perpetrated on us by . . . our own government!!

Like many conspiracy theories, chemtrails take real facts and real events but totally misinterpret miscategorize or misrepresent them. Yes, it is possible to manipulate the weather to produce rain and snow, or to reduce fog and hail, but these actions are very localized to specific areas. In fact, after 9/11, when most aircraft were grounded, scientists took the opportunity to measure atmospheric temperature with no planes in the sky. They found that there was indeed a small difference, but it was easily explained by the weather being overall cooler than normal. Also, during the Olympics in Beijing, China spent about $30 million dollars to control the weather to make it rain and reduce smog. They have been using weather modifying programs since about 2008. But it would essentially be impossible to change the weather of an entire country the size of the United States.

It’s also been proven that solar radiation management is possible, and could be a way to reduce global warming, though decreasing greenhouse gases would be far more effective for this. And this method would also not help in reducing the acidification of the oceans. But these are all legitimate goals to pursue through research.

When it comes to conspiracy theories like this, the evidence is often misinterpreted. For example, when certain types of passenger planes are tested, they use large water tanks to simulate the weight of people. Pictures of these tanks have been taken as evidence that planes are carrying chemical materials and are releasing them into the air above us. Other times, measurements of barium were taken from underneath chemtrails and are said to have contained several times the safe amount. However, this was found to be due to faulty equipment and measuring.

These conspiracies gained traction in the mid-to-late ‘90’s, when a report from the United States Air Force about future weather modification was released to the public. From there, several conspiracists like notorious radio host Art Bell expanded on the theory that the government was releasing chemicals into the very air we breathe, for nefarious purposes. (His show also featured stories about the paranormal and he claimed there were several intruders on his property because they wanted to silence him and get him off the air.) Of course, these theories also took root on various conspiracy-minded Internet sites and forums.

The Air Force claimed that the leaked document was commissioned as part of a fictional what-if scenario about how they might use a nation’s weather against it as a sort of force multiplier. But this explanation just got some people more paranoid.

A recurring theme is that many conspiracy sites and theorists are quick to cite science as their “proof,” but are also just as quick to dismiss what scientists actually say about the matter. For example, the fact that contrails can last a long time means that there is no evidence of chemical additives. This alone is enough of a kick to the foundation of the conspiracy theory to shake its believability.

People tend to believe these types of theories out of fear and mistrust of their government. They know enough about history to know that there have always been some seriously heinous acts committed against people by their governments. As is typical, these theories are rooted in past experiences but often take off in unfounded and unscientific directions. That’s not to say that there isn’t ongoing governmental research into weather and how it might be modified and controlled by humans (like, say, diminishing the power of hurricanes). It’s not outlandish at all to note that.

But the danger in dismissing scientific proof should be self-evident.


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