CHEM versus CON in The Sky Above
It is rare for us to see vapour trails from aircraft in the mostly clear skies above Perth, Western Australia. Yet, even though we can’t see them, we often hear a jet’s guttural roar as it passes way up high overhead on its way to or from the African or Asian continent.
When we do see a trail, it disperses briefly as a widening arrow only to disappear without trace perhaps a kilometre behind the aircraft. The brevity of the trail’s existence testifies to the fact that the aircraft are leaving behind them nothing more than water vapour from the moist exhaust of the plane’s engines where it meets the extreme cold of the lower stratosphere. Granted we don’t get as much high-altitude traffic as they do in European or USA continental skies, but we are under commercial air traffic lanes.
We are heading back to Europe shortly. One of the past, clear memories of our previous summer travel was of thickly layered and criss-crossed aircraft trails dominating what should have been the clear blue summer skies above. Is it a cause for concern? Well, if you are not used to seeing it, it is a mystifying phenomenon to say the least – yet there is an apparent acceptance of this lineal aerial pollution over USA and Europe’s skies.
This could possibly be attributed to a combination of factors: the public’s awareness of constant military and commercial air traffic above those lands: a feeling of helplessness about affecting any change in the situation and: the majority’s assumption that what is trailing behind those aircraft is harmless water vapour – condensation.
But is it?
Many of you will be aware that there is another school of thought about the source of those trails. Many think that what is seen high above leaving the aircraft is, in fact, a chemical spray. Thus we have a raging (online, mostly) controversy pitting the Chemtrails (chemical trails) protagonists against the Contrails (condensation trails) deriders.
A couple of summers ago we spent quite a bit of time in Spain’s Extremadura region; an area where ancient cities have remained largely intact for centuries, uncontaminated by sky-scraper-mania and the region, as a whole, largely un-industrialised.
From these cities and on our long walks in the surrounding countryside, at that time of the year we should have had, from dawn to dusk, clear, unclouded (as in weather-produced cloud) blue sky.
It was hot; Extremadura is named for its seasonally extreme weather. Each day on our wanderings we would frequently scan the expanse of blue above – as one does – perhaps idly hoping for cooling rain clouds.
What we would see each and every day, however, was a steady tracery of trails being formed in the lower stratosphere. Some, clearly condensation trails, would disappear quite quickly. The majority, though, lingered . . . and lingered. In fact they did not disappear at all, but would slowly spread across the sky to merge with the other questionable trails. In what was a true, cloudless sky, these trails were daily occluding the sun.
We didn’t know whether to be grateful for the shade provided by this occlusion, or to be deeply concerned. I leant towards the latter.
Chemtrail believers (disparagingly labelled Conspiracy theorists) are claiming there is a deliberate spray-dispersal of chemicals from aircraft in the lower stratosphere and many assert there is evidence of this.
Is some ‘interest group’ really playing with the weather or, alternately, chemically tinkering with us mere mortals at ground level? Or is it simply a result of the warm, moist exhaust of the plane’s engines meeting the extremely cold temperatures of the upper atmosphere.
Do nano-particles from these trails slowly fall to earth? Is a mist of chemicals drifting down upon the land, its people and into their waterways? Those trails we were seeing over Extremadura, whatever their source, seemed to merge and drift all day and the way they merged from different levels seemed to indicate some gradual falling. If nothing else, it was gross visual pollution.
The debate rages. Search the internet for Contrails versus Chemtrails and you’ll see what I mean. The jury is out – and likely to remain so if we may judge by the ongoing controversy.
At the heart of the Chemtrail adherents’ argument is suspicion, fear, and a genuine concern for our health, while there seems to be such fervent rebuttal of their case by those who claim it is all harmless condensation that it raises suspicion and amounts, in itself, to a cause for concern.
I don’t anticipate seeing clear, un-streaked skies over Europe’s land masses during our coming travel, but it certainly would be a welcome improvement.