Are jet contrails the latest threat?

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Dear Cecil: Just when I thought that all I had to worry about was the Pakistanis with a nuke, I receive a letter telling me that jet contrails are killing me! The letter referred me to this site: I was aghast! I knew a bad set of entrails could mess you up, like eating a bloated buffalo, but now contrails? F., via the Internet


Illustration by Slug Signorino

Cecil replies:

I tell you, these days it’s hard to keep up. Even I, world’s smartest human, was only vaguely aware of the contrail menace. Not anymore, boy. If you thought fluoridated water was bad, wait till you get a load of this.

Contrails, short for condensation trails, are those long white lines in the sky that sometimes stream out behind jet aircraft. They’re formed when jet exhaust or wingtip vortices precipitate a stream of tiny ice crystals in moist, frigid upper air. Or so they’d have you believe. But check out these firsthand reports from the Contrail Connection site:

  • “On my honeymoon in Smokey Mountain National Park. The weather was picture perfect. The weather channel showed that the Doppler radar showed not a cloud in the sky, and wouldn’t be for several days. …My husband and I …saw some disipating contrails [and] an hour later enexplainable rain. So unexplainable that [repetitive material deleted]. As quickly as the rain had come it was gone, the clouds just seemed to melt into the sky, not like a system moved on. That night I came down with the worse respitory whooping virus I have ever had, sick with nausea, congestion, cough, vomiting. Lasted the wek of my honeymoon and beyond with symptoms not letting up. Didn’t know about contrails then, but these reports explain are so similiar to what I experienced that they cannot be ignored.”
  • “Yesterday (10-1-99), on our way past Dover Air Force Base, we noticed a camouflaged plane on the south end of the base. There were three words on the side. Couldn’t read the first one clearly, ‘ME____’ AIR FORCE. Under the wing facing us, was a large canister, pointed on the end towards the rear and rounded on the front, beige in color. We are very concerned about what is being sprayed and feel it has affected our health.”
  • “Although I do not believe in UFOs, or most anything that Art Bell talks about, I am a diehard believer of chemtrail spraying! [Spraying] gave me burning eyes, a sore throat, and a nosebleed. …I reached the point of panic and called not only the …TV stations, but also CNN, the Weather Channel, NOAA, and the NWS Mt. Holly. All were giving me the same response of denial. I had to make a phone call later that day, and the line was dead! I went to a neighbor’s house, called the phone company, and was told that they could not find the problem. Walking back to my house, I saw a strange van parked at the edge of my property. They stayed parked there for a half hour until I got the guts to walk outside and let them know that I was aware of them, at which time they drove away. The entire outside phone line had to be replaced the next day. The phone company said that the line had a short out. This is the first time my phone has had this problem in the entire 39 years this house has been here!!!”

Some tell tales of mysterious white tanker planes, a counterpart to the black helicopters of paranoid legend, crisscrossing the country spraying “chemtrails” that make people sick. Often the chemtrails form an X, which is “read by satellites to track dispersal patterns,” we learn. In many cases the contrails are accompanied by a cobweblike cloud of “angel hair” filaments descending from the sky. Other times clear or brown Jell-O-like goop spatters the landscape. Some think the goop and the filaments result from improperly adjusted spray nozzles on the mysterious aircraft.

Are these people crazy? Of course they’re crazy. But there’s an element of truth to what they say. In recent years scientists have become concerned about the effects of jet contrails on the environment. In research published in 1998, NASA scientists found that by circling a jet off the Pacific coast they were able to create contrails that eventually coalesced into a cirrus cloud covering 1,400 square miles. An examination of satellite photographs turned up an instance of jet contrails produced by commercial aircraft over New Mexico forming a cloud covering 13,000 square miles. NASA atmospheric scientist Patrick Minnis thinks the publicity surrounding these revelations may have been what set off the chemtrail nuts. Cirrus cloud cover is thought to have increased significantly over the U.S. since 1971, possibly due to jet travel. Given the steady rise in air traffic, these clouds may lead to local and eventually global warming and other meteorological effects —not necessarily angel hair filaments and Jell-O-like goop, but perhaps a lot fewer sunny days.

Cecil Adams

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