WASHINGTON, DC, August 14, 2016 (ENS) – Long-lasting white trails left behind by aircraft are caused by well-understood physical and chemical processes, not a secret, large-scale atmospheric spraying program, concludes new research from Carnegie Science, University of California-Irvine, and the nonprofit Near Zero.
Some groups and individuals allege that the white marks aircraft make across the sky are “chemtrails,” chemicals sprayed secretly either by the government and or by industry and linked to negative impacts on human health and the environment.
By contrast, scientists refer to the trails left behind by aircraft as condensation trails, or “contrails.”
The current study surveyed dozens of the world’s leading atmospheric scientists, who overwhelmingly rejected the suggestion that a secret spraying program exists.
The research team surveyed 77 scientists from two groups of experts – atmospheric chemists who specialize in condensation trails, and geochemists working on atmospheric deposition of dust and pollution.
The results show that 76 of the 77 scientists surveyed said they had not encountered evidence of a secret spraying program.
They agree that the alleged evidence cited by those who believe that atmospheric spraying or “covert geoengineering,” is occurring can be explained through other factors, such as typical airplane contrail formation and poor data sampling.
The team’s findings are published in the current issue of the journal “Environmental Research Letters.”
“We wanted to establish a scientific record on the topic of secret atmospheric spraying programs for the benefit of those in the public who haven’t made up their minds,” said study co-author Steven Davis, associate professor of Earth system science at the University of California-Irvine.
“The experts we surveyed resoundingly rejected contrail photographs and test results as evidence of a large-scale atmospheric conspiracy,” said Davis.
The research team undertook the survey in response to the large number of people who say they believe in a secret spraying program.
In a 2011 international survey, nearly 17 percent of respondents said they believed the existence of a secret large-scale atmospheric spraying program to be true or partly true.
More recently, several websites have arisen claiming to show evidence of widespread chemical spraying.
“The chemtrails conspiracy theory maps pretty closely to the origin and growth of the internet, where you can still find a number of websites that promote this particular brand of pseudoscience,” said Davis.
“Our survey found little agreement in the scientific community with claims that the government, the military, airlines and others are colluding in a widespread, nefarious program to poison the planet from the skies,” said Davis.
The belief in chemtrails parallels increasing public distrust of elites and social institutions, according to earlier social science research referenced by the authors.
To those convinced, the chemicals are sprayed to regulate the food supply, control human population and/or manipulate weather patterns.
In recent years, the theory has expanded to include government-sponsored geoengineering to mitigate climate change.
“Despite the persistence of erroneous theories about atmospheric chemical spraying programs, until now there were no peer-reviewed academic studies showing that what some people think are chemtrails are just ordinary contrails,” said Carnegie’s Ken Caldeira,.
“Contrails are becoming more abundant as air travel expands. Also, it is possible that climate change is causing contrails to persist for longer than they used to,” Caldeira said.
Some of the surveyed specialists suggested that global warming may in itself be a cause of longer-lasting condensation trails from aircraft engines.
Another contributor, outlined in the study, is the steady growth of air travel in recent decades, which leads airplanes to fly higher, where contrails are more likely to form and remain in the sky.
The research team says they do not hope to sway those already convinced that there is a secret spraying program, “as these individuals usually only reject counter-evidence as further proof of their theories, but rather to establish a source of objective science that can inform public discourse.”
Caldeira said, “I felt it was important to definitively show what real experts in contrails and aerosols think. We might not convince die-hard believers that their beloved secret spraying program is just a paranoid fantasy, but hopefully their friends will accept the facts.”