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Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D.

Chemtrails Versus Contrails

By April 6, 2012

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Contrails consist of condensed water vapor from aircraft exhaust. (NOAA)Do you know the difference between a chemtrail and a contrail? A contrail is an abbreviation for "condensation trail," which is a visible white vapor trail produced as water vapor condenses from aircraft engine exhaust. Contrails consist of water vapor or tiny ice crystals. The length of time they persist varies from several seconds to a few hours, depending largely on the temperature and humidity.

Chemtrails, on the other hand, are "chemical trails" purportedly resulting from intentional high altitude release of chemical or biological agents. While you might think chemtrails would include crop dusting, cloud seeding and chemical drops for firefighting, the term is applied to illicit activities as part of a conspiracy theory. Proponents of the chemtrail theory believe chemtrails may be distinguished from contrails by color, displaying a criss-cross trail pattern and persistent appearance. The purpose of chemtrails might be weather control, solar radiation control, or testing of various agents on people, flora or fauna. Atmospheric experts and government agencies say there is no basis for the chemtrail conspiracy theory.

Do you think chemtrails exist? If so, why and for what purpose?


June 19, 2011 at 10:32 am
(1) Doubting Thomas says:

How are the chemicals supposed to reach the people down below if they stick together in the form of sky trails for extended periods of time.
If they’re light enough to stick in the trail, won’t the wind and such keep them aloft?

June 19, 2011 at 11:12 am
(2) Benton Jackson says:

I think they’re specifically designed to dissolve tin-foil hats.

June 19, 2011 at 2:39 pm
(3) alireza nouroozi says:

hi.your issue is very interesting.thank you.

June 23, 2011 at 7:45 am
(4) MikeH says:

That picture looks like it was taken over my house. We are in one of the busiest air traffic corridors in the country. We have constant air traffic, both civilian and military. I especially like watching the low flying A-10 Warthogs. I can imagine how intimidating they are to a target on the ground.

July 3, 2011 at 3:46 pm
(5) JayBee says:

I live in Ontario, Canada and I am starting to see geometric chemtrails on a daily basis. There is one thing I can’t understand…I did a Google search for chemtrails in Ottawa, Canada’s capital city, and found that they are just as common there. If the chemtrails are harmful then why would the politicians spray them on themselves?

November 18, 2011 at 7:53 am
(6) essicaj says:

Well…. why are the trails going every which way? Left, right, Crisscross. Plains don’t fly like that….. unless for an air show….. In my opinion I think it is weird and creepy and obviously there is a conspiracy about it for a reason. The theory didn’t just come out of no ware. I freaking hope the theory is just a theory. I don’t want to get sick. I was listening to this commercial today on the radio and it said. “The housing market is going down, the economy is going down, and still people are having trouble finding jobs, but health insurance, and medical is still going up!!!!!!” Oh thats something to look forward to doctor visits and medication. I can’t wait, Not. They sure do make lots of money from that. I want to know what the non conspiracy people think about this but the language is to difficult to understand.

January 18, 2012 at 6:49 pm
(7) Cathy says:

The lines that stay are CHEMTRAILS…. the ones that dissipate are contrails, I have been studying these for quite awhile now. They are spraying us like cockroaches to de-populate the earth so they may better control us……they are the Illuminati, the Bushes, the Rothschilds, the Rockefellers…etc…..THIS HAS TO BE STOPPED!!!!

January 18, 2012 at 11:24 pm
(8) Stank-Indo says:

We cannot stop the Agenda for de-population. We are only a little ways thru the Book of Revelation, but sometimes it seems Jesus cannot return fast enough to eradicate this disgusting, greedy human behaviour.

March 7, 2012 at 3:28 pm
(9) Ron says:

Watch out, if you come out against their conspiracy, they will all label you as government agents. Sorry, but you do not have to be a government agent to know about geology, weather or aviation.

Chemtrail conspiracy was invented by Will Thomas to help sell books. In his silly Chemtrails Confirmed book, he makes up wild tale tales with no proof, even putting in photos of a private Cessna jet he claims is modified for spraying, except for it was not modified, and it is even Morgan Freemans Cessna. More people have jumped on the chemtrail snake oil bandwagon to sell more dvds, movies, books, remedies, “orgone” machines, etc. Roxy Lopez passes off pictures of disassembled airplanes as “chemplanes”

Contrails can be nonexistent, last a little while, or freeze into cirrus and last a long time. Chemtrailers insist that contrails can not last, and thats not true, persisting contrails were seen as far back as 1920, and especially during WW2 and even more with more jet airliners. These people see contrails, even natural cirrus and get scared.

And then chemtrailers insist that tests showing that there are metals in the ground, as proof of spraying. Hello, where do you think metals come from? Ever heard of mining??? Do you realize that Aluminum compounds are 8% of the earths crust?

It really is like a religion to these people.

March 27, 2012 at 1:57 pm
(10) anon says:

Planes naturally emmit aerosol particles which will aggravate new cloud formations. Scientific papers already details how plane-traffic create more clouds and change the climate on earth. No need for fancy ideas about massive chemical spraying from special tubes when it’s already happening from regular jet engines.

April 7, 2012 at 10:05 am
(11) maruawe says:

I believe that chemtrails are to seed clouds to produce rain in dry areas

April 10, 2012 at 3:16 pm
(12) Don Lightbody says:

As a former pilot, I have never been able to fathom the ‘logic’ behind the ‘chemtrails” conspiracy proponents. Most aircraft flying at flight levels of 20,000 feet and above are going to leave contrails if the atmospheric conditions support it. Consequently, contrails are going to present differing appearances depending on the air temperature and moisture content of the air. In the 50-odd years I have been involved with aircraft, I have seen some rather odd and bizarre contrails, but nothing that could not be construed as anything BUT a contrail.
Just as an added comment, cloud seeding to try and induce rain almost always takes place at the lower altitudes, well below the contrail level.

April 13, 2012 at 6:39 pm
(13) Carrie says:

Those who believe in Chemtrails are never going to convince those who trust the government that they would do anything to hurt us like Hitler, Mussolini, Mao, Stalin, etcetera, All our leaders are honest, moral, upstanding, caring, and full of integrity. Right?

I don’t care what they call the trails. That is not the point with me. I am tired of seeing the blue skies obliterated by whatever is coming out of the planes, whether it be contrails or chemtrails. I don’t like my windows covered with an oily slime, and I don’t like to have my throat become congested every time I go out of doors on one of those “chemtrail/contrail” days. If this is normal traffic, why have there been periods of time, actually for months back in the spring of 2008, where there were no persistent trails at all where I live?

During the 2010-2011 winter we hardly ever saw the sun. I was at a gathering of children in February 2011, and the sun came out, and everyone was just ecstatic about it. They oooh’d and aaah’d because It was so unusual.

Why are we arguing about what the trails are or how long they have existed? It is obvious what is happening to the sky, and it isn’t natural or normal, and it can’t be healthy any way you look at it.

April 23, 2012 at 1:55 pm
(14) sss says:

i believe that they are attempting to protect the earth from what is happening beyond our seriously damaged ozone layer.

April 23, 2012 at 1:58 pm
(15) sss says:

i believe that they are attempting to protect the earth from what is happening beyond our seriously crippled ozone layer

May 17, 2012 at 2:58 pm
(16) John says:

All one has to do is look at science (real science not the crap that chemtrailers seem to advocate) to see that contrails are simply the result of powered aircraft moving through the upper atmosphere.
And if any of them knew anything about chemicals and how they break down they would know that if these so-called chemtrails were real the chemicals would break down long before they got anywhere close to the surface. The chemicals would break down from sunlight, moisture in the air, and the wind (jet stream anyone?) would just resuspend them and scatter them all over the place.
If the government or any other entity wanted to spray the general population with “mind altering or behavior altering” chemicals they would have to spray them at much lower altitudes.

May 28, 2012 at 4:50 pm
(17) Carax says:

I made some observations over the last few years:

Some jets leave no vapor trails at all (something new I noticed this month).

Some jets leave vapor trails that last only a few minutes.

Some jets leave trails that last for hours.

What this all means I have no idea. Whatever they are you can argue both ways. Some people are absolutely sure there is no such thing as chem-trails (how they know this they usually can’t prove). Some who believe there are chem-trails never provide real evidence – photos are useless since they don’t show the chemical composition of the trails. Either way, I don’t trust our government one iota – so it wouldn’t be surprising if some groups of sociopaths were indeed spraying the earth.

May 31, 2012 at 2:27 am
(18) Popa says:

Me hacen gracia los que niegan la veracidad de los “Chemtrails” desde hace más de dos años que se ha ido intensificando el baile de aviones dejando estelas impresionantes. Puedo asegurar que en la zona del Vallés Occidental de 7 días de la semana, 5 hay movimiento de aviones durante todo el día . Empiezan sobre las 7 de la mañana hasta las 9 de la noche.
Otro detalle importante, los aviones de pasajeros o de transporte no hacen giros de 90º, estos SI.
Cuando nos dirá la verdad el gobierno?
y otra cosa , que pretenden con ello?

September 2, 2012 at 12:17 pm
(19) Michelle says:

I have to go on the chem-trail side here…in Toronto it’s been really bad with chem trails this summer and a lot of people are complaining about allergies and breathing difficulties and our air sucks…I have read both sides and frankly if it doesn’t dissolve behind the the plane in a few seconds and it sits there for half an hour or more it can’t be good.

November 25, 2012 at 8:57 pm
(20) Chicken Little says:

Poisonous chemicals in the food ,soil, & animals we consume + chemicals in the water, + various camps set up like Word War 2 Germany + an increase in cancer & other various diseases, + a medical system & pharmaceutic drug that kill 250.000 people a year = an elitist controlled world domination designed to regain control of we the people & exterminate us like some kind of 2012 dooms day prophesy!

February 27, 2013 at 1:21 pm
(21) Mob says:

Chemtrails are going to get us sick over time n kill us

March 10, 2013 at 12:15 pm
(22) Northern canadian says:

Chemtrails are for real, and not for good reasons. They spray bad chemicals and can spray viruses. Big difference in a contrail and Chemtrails. Listen to this Law professor at M.I.T. and then look for the truth, not the MSM provided brainwashing and omitting of the real news. Those who don;t believe, don’t know or don’t want to,
Also there are pilots who’ve sprayed these poisons and are talking about it now. It’s not conspiracy theories, it’s the truth. We are in bad times and we are being killed off. But before we are there is lots of money to be made by big pharma and Monsanto. Look for alternative news . It is backed up by individuals who are not sponsored by corporations but who are qualified scientists and expert witnesses They get “suicided” when they get too vocal or step on the wrong peoples toes, I mean wallets.

March 18, 2013 at 10:41 am
(23) Tim says:

HAHA you guys are such Sheep! wake up before its took late. You might be fast asleep drinking your fluoride they are feeding you but I’ll fight for you until you wake up!

May 21, 2013 at 3:12 pm
(24) eddie says:

i went to places in malaysia with hardly any airtraffic –yet to skys are always coated … the contrail thing is a great excuse — but if you go to a place with little air traffic you will find the trails and the sky covered !!

June 7, 2013 at 11:38 pm
(25) Mr. Wizard says:

If “they” wanted to control population I think that birth control would be a much more effective means and they won’t even allow that. No, they want you alive and consuming all their crap. More population means more market.
They are not trying to kill us, they are breeding us like sheep to be consumers of their BS. Chemtrails are just another one of their smokescreens to keep you from focusing on the real problems and real pollution that they are raining on us from nuclear plants and the real culprit, the burning of oil and coal.
That oily film on your windows is from cartrails not chemtrails.
Wake up to the real problems.
Buy less
Consume less
Recycle more
Boycott the bad guys and watch them squirm!
Boycott them and mean it and they will go away!
We have the dollars, we have the choice.

June 10, 2013 at 3:30 pm
(26) Alex T Reinhard says:

Hrm, could it be the gov’t is trying to affect climate change? MAybe if HAARP didn’t exist and a plethora of patents on the technology to spray barium in our skies weren’t filed in the patent office I would believe I am looking at contrails, but gosh. Sure doesn’t seem like thats what it is.

July 1, 2013 at 9:42 pm
(27) Patriotic Thinking says:

Yes unfortunitly everyone seems to be right yet again so in the end and unfortunitly we are all making it that way me too by typing this we will ruin this plant unless as a humanity we pull togehter and evacuated this planet tomorrow and use the last 300 years of life supporting planet life to expand into the stars its our human duty and our only phlyight Dustin. Cmc Nj. Good luck everyone and human speed !!!

July 3, 2013 at 4:06 am
(28) disco_y2k says:

in south louisiana the last few years there has been high flying, I MEAN VERY HIGH, 80,000+ ft altitude jets on a regular basis flying almost a checker board pattern. to give you an idea, with a telescope you can see a silver shiny dot with a trail, that is it! as a career, under contract my teams do aerial and marine reconnaisance for private corporations or for the government (not black suit wearing men in black government g-man, conspiracy crap, we will take on projects for like NRC, emergency response on environmental issues etc) fixed wing, drone and helo’s. i am not a pilot, i handle comm’s, logistics, and am team leader., but during a project i spend between 40-70 hours a week in the air. long story short, i get paid to spot, analyse, record, document, tag, EVERYTHING, from gps coords, altitude, cam res, time stamp, speed of travel, etc on average almost a TB of data per team, per day. teams are pairs. 2 vessels, 2 helo’s, etc… (i designed the deepwater horrizon recon software and put together the aerial and marine recon teams if that gives you an idea) SO I HAVE EXPERIENCE in the air and i would assume by now i have pretty good observational skill, lol! but these trails over the last few years are not normal. the patterns and the way they just seem to never disperse. from horizon to horizon they create defined trails that do do not disperse for hours. like i said you can actually see a checker board pattern sometimes. conspiracy, not conspiracy, aliens, or jimmy hoffa, lol, i don’t know, but they are there, just my unbias observations.

August 2, 2013 at 4:07 pm
(29) igorstra says:

Jaybee. They spray it on themselves cause they got their orders and if they dont obey they loose their powers (being replaced) or get killed. The politicians are not the real rulers but those behind (called Illuminati).

August 27, 2013 at 1:14 pm
(30) Pam says:

I sat out in my backyard one Saturday morning and WATCHED various aircraft leave vapour trails all over the sky. I watch aircraft pass over all the time and these were not the paths that they normally take. These were deliberate and all over the place. One particular huge “X” spread wider and stayed in the sky for a considerably long period of time. You can’t tell me “they” aren’t doing something!

November 14, 2013 at 10:50 pm
(31) It's on the internet says:

Its on the internet, it has to be true. Right? if it wasn’t they wouldn’t allow it on the internet

December 9, 2013 at 11:55 am
(32) L. Wolfe says:

I’m going to split up my comments because of the 2000 character limit. Hopefully, they will let me post multiple comments in a row so I can address some of what has been said above.

I know I’m wasting my time because people believe what they want to believe. But there’s part of me that says “Maybe just this once I can change a mind that’s already made up.” But probably not.

re: “Well…. why are the trails going every which way? Left, right, Crisscross. Plains don’t fly like that….. unless for an air show….. In my opinion I think it is weird and creepy and obviously there is a conspiracy about it for a reason. The theory didn’t just come out of no ware.”

First of all, your credibility will go up quite a bit if you learn to spell. Aircraft are known as planes, not plains. (Plains are what you find in flyover country, or where Jimmy Carter came from.) And the theory didn’t just come out of “no ware” — but it MIGHT have come out of nowhere.

I’m a retired pilot and aeronautical engineer. I spent well over three decades MAKING those things you are referring to as chemtrails. And your theory is so laughable that I might as well be trying to dispel the belief that the moon is made of green cheese.

(Continued below)

December 9, 2013 at 11:56 am
(33) L. Wolfe says:

On what BASIS do you say that planes don’t fly like that — crisscrossing the sky? Have you ever flown an aircraft? Have you ever looked at aeronautical charts? Have you ever even listened to aircraft communicating with Air Traffic Control? The airways themselves crisscross the entire nation (and world.) And so with no variations from the airways, the paths WOULD crisscross the country. In addition to that, because the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, when traffic allows, Air Traffic Control regularly clears aircraft DIRECT between waypoints, cutting out the bends in the road — resulting in aircraft cutting ACROSS other airways. Furthermore, aircraft are going to all sorts of DIFFERENT destinations — resulting in MORE crisscrossing. And finally, the medium in which they fly — the atmosphere — is always moving. So a series of aircraft flying along the same airway only minutes apart would result in a series of parallel contrails as the winds aloft carry the contrails away from the airway.
Contrails form as a result of the water vapor (which is a huge component of jet engine exhaust) condenses. (Hence, CONdensation TRAILS.) Did you ever notice that when you exhale, IF the temperature and humidity are appropriate, you can see your own exhaled air? And that sometimes you see it, sometimes you don’t, sometimes the visible exhaled air persists for just a fraction of a second, and sometimes it persists longer? That’s the same way contrails work. It’s a function of temperature and humidity — which vary by altitude, vary by location (it can even vary within the space of a couple hundred yards), and vary from day to day. It’s not unusual to have a day when nobody is leaving contrails, days when everyone is and they last an hour or so, days when only planes at the higher altitudes are leaving them, or days when they are intermittent. If that all bothers you and smells like a conspiracy, take it up with God.

December 9, 2013 at 11:57 am
(34) L. Wolfe says:

In addition to basic ignorance of the atmosphere and aviation, there are some very practical things that make all this absurd even as a crackpot conspiracy theory. Few people (other than pilots) have any real concept of just how huge the earth and the atmosphere are and how absurd it is to think that you can modify the weather on A LARGE SCALE. Sure, there ARE such things as “cloud seeding” — which I have encountered once — over in Europe — where they disperse particles in the atmosphere (silver iodide, frequently) to serve as condensation nuclei to give water vapor something to condense onto. That can work, for example, in an effort to disperse fog enough for an aircraft to land (which was the case the only time I encountered it.) But the idea that you can put stuff in the fuel of airliners and have them make significant changes to the weather is just plain nuts. Furthermore, the amount of chemicals you would have to add to fuel loads to have any significant effect would have to be large indeed. And when, as a pilot, you must calculate weight and takeoff performance down to the last pound to be legal to take off or land on a given runway (not to mention to do so safely) the idea that sinister conspirators are sneaking thousands of pounds of chemicals into your fuel that will a) make it weigh more, and b) will degrade the performance of the fuel is ABSURD.

December 9, 2013 at 11:58 am
(35) L. Wolfe says:

in an effort to modify human behavior. Think about it! If you wanted to poison someone — or to get some sort of chemicals into them — what makes more sense? To put stuff in their coffee or water or spray stuff VERY CLOSE to them — OR — to drop stuff seven miles high where it’s going to get dispersed in millions of cubic miles of air, carried away by the winds aloft, dropped over the mountains and plains and oceans, HOPING that just SOME of it will drift onto the people you’re targeting? You’d be far better off driving down the road past your intended targets and spraying a concentrated solution of whatever you’re using out of a squirt gun as you drive past their houses.

I admit that, probably like a lot of you, I do NOT trust the government, and I believe that many in government have intentions that are not in our best interests by a long shot. But people undermine their credibility when they latch onto every crackpot idea that comes along. And the whole idea of “chemtrails” is one of the “crackpot-est” of all.

December 15, 2013 at 8:05 pm
(36) LINDA says:

Thanks Wolfe, for the information. But why are they contrails over my area lasting 3 or more hours? I thought maybe be cause it’s cold here in MT. But there are lots of trails in CA etc. that last as long. I am confused. I would really like some real facts. Not just peoples opinions. Some of the You tube videos seem pretty convincing. And I have my own pictures. Still confused

December 16, 2013 at 4:21 am
(37) taketheredpill says:

Ok, just today I happened to film a plane creating what most people would think is a normal contrail….Thing is, it happened to come directly from ground level and up into the sky. It was a hot, dry day today – 20′c and 60% humidity. Science would indicate that this is impossible.
Yesterday I went out to find one streaking right across the sky – it stayed n the same spot for 4 hours, slightly spreading out, while other clouds passed through it. I am no idiot and neither are the other people that know that chemtrails are very very real.
And who said it was all about spraying things so that it lands on people? The particles seem to be hanging there as if magnetised by some unseen force magnetised heavy metal couds + electromagnetic frequencies (HAARP) = clouds that are suspended in the sky and do not dissipate as real clouds made of actual water vapour fly through them.
But, y’know what shillie shills? Keep on trying to convince us we are wrong – the more you try the more we know you are wrong.

February 2, 2014 at 3:06 pm
(38) Claud says:

I see them everyday now in N.C.

February 20, 2014 at 2:00 pm
(39) Joey Bagadonuts says:

You are all nuts

March 11, 2014 at 9:28 am
(40) Nanuq says:

I think u should all watch…why in the world are they spraying us…and get familiar with the depopulization programme and who is really controlling the world…I’d recommend reading..the rise of the new world order,the culling of man
Time to wake up folks
The media only feeds us what the governments want us to know…and of course they’re all the salt of the earth!!!
Re educate yourselves and stop being sheep

March 12, 2014 at 6:46 am
(41) Oil on my Balcony says:

I live on the top of a six floor apartment block and on the front and back balcony have appeared on the tiles and metal edging, what I can only describe as oil slicks (the rain water rests in globules (like a newly waxed car). So how would it get there? If it was in the ground, why would an oily substance seep up 6 floors of an apartment block (but not show up in any other floor). Is it jettisoned Aircraft Kerosene? When I wash it off with soap it is there again the next day? We are not particularly over a busy aircraft route either. I have noticed some Chem or Con trails” in the late afternoon – usually about 3 -5 only.

March 28, 2014 at 9:41 pm
(42) Mary S. says:

As for chemtrails I don’t have an aluminum hat, what I do have is “asthma” which I never had before in my life, I never had alergies before in my life and I am 72 yrs. old. I don’t see blue skies anymore, what I see is a milky grey sky after the planes that dispense the chemicals of aluminum, barium and strontium over our airspace. I have never had so many friends with respiratory problems ever. My lungs have always been very healthy. I have listened to several scientist and professors who have seen and documented crop damage, not only hear on the U.S. continent but also the deminishing crops in Hawaii as well. I heard the testimony of pilots who have been flying and seen these planes dispursing these chemicals as well.. for those who doubt I suggest that you go to sites like
thrivemovement.com, Geo-Engineering, SRM DARPA or skyderalert.com, these are just a few of the sites,
I myself am tired of coughing, and spitting up thick clear mucous that looks like glue, my husband coughs, friends are coughing and having respiratory problems. Look up and tell me when was the last time you saw a truly blue sky? The last one I saw was when it rained a couple of weeks ago and then it was only blue for one day and then their they came like a patchwork quilt across the sky. Marys

April 9, 2014 at 10:22 pm
(43) Greybeard says:

There was only ONE day in the lifetime of all of the people in the USA reading this that did NOT have a sky full of contrails,
That day was September 13th, 2001, 2 days after the attacks in the Twin Towers.
The day before there were authorized flights. mostly Bush’s Saudi friends flying out of the country. the 13th was the clearest sky since the 1920′s.

Kids claiming that their skies were without contrails a few years ago simply never noticed them. There is nothing new up there.

April 25, 2014 at 3:17 pm
(44) DiDi says:

The purpose is to create a metallic dome so rising methane gases do not reach the ozone to further expand the layers.

April 29, 2014 at 6:50 pm
(45) connie says:

If science can’t educate people then where has all common sense gone? If we assume the government is evil, (which is is) we must also assume that it is smart, which it isn’t. We must also assume that it is a worldwide collusion of all governments working together because the “trails” are all over the world. Then we must assume that all of these governments have been in collusion since the 1920′s when planes started flying in high enough altitudes to actually create contrails. If we assume they are too numerous to be made by military planes then we also have to assume that every airline world wide is also involved in this plot. Yes, common sense dictates that the US is working with all of our enemies, all to an end of ……what, slowly killing people? I see no common sense in that! It’s too much trouble when you can just allow Monsanto to create GMO;s with BT and Glyphosate resistant and poison people with Round Up. Want to know why you’re sick…..look at what you put in your mouth.

May 13, 2014 at 1:51 pm
(46) thomasmatt says:

To the “believers”, if it’s all true,… what are you going to do about it?
There’s no proof, it is up to the “believers” to prove there are chemtrails, not on the science people to prove there is not.
If you think you can determine what is happening 10,000+ feet above you, if you think you know how high aircraft are flying by just looking up, there’s no explanation that will suffice.People used to think the earth was flat using the eye as a gauge, they also didn’t believe in germs because they couldn’t see them.Science is a wonderful thing, but it’s flat, religions/beliefs feel “magical” to people searching for something, sadly people always go negative.

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