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article image'Chemtrails' — Secret chemical spraying or condensation trails?

By Karen Graham     Aug 13, 2016 in Science
The Internet is full of conspiracy theories about the condensation trails left by airplanes flying at high altitudes, with the most nefarious one being the government is spraying chemicals on people. In a new study, the conspiracy theories are shot down.
If you were to Google "Chemtrail Conspiracy Theory," you would find 110,000 entries, enough to keep you busy for days. And you may be surprised to learn that over 15 percent of Americans believe there is something to the conspiracy theories behind chemtrails.
Chemtrails theories frequently pop up on Reddit comment threads, on Twitter, dedicated chemtrails websites and Instagram photos of aircraft. Some airline pilots have been known to mockingly go along with the theories, adding chemtrail stickers to their suitcases or labeling levers on the flight deck with signs that say "Chemtrail OFF/On."
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Chemtrail Skywatcher/Twitter
The conspiracy theories began in the 1990s when a few "investigative journalists" started describing purported plots by the federal government to inject poisons into the air. More recent theories claim it is the government's way of controlling the climate around the world.
A first-of-its-kind study by the country's top atmospheric scientists from Carnegie Science, University of California Irvine, and the nonprofit organization Near Zero, have concluded that the theories behind chemtrails are bunk, says Mashable. And while the results of the study won't sway die-hard conspiracy theorists, there is a simple and plausible explanation.
Of the 77 scientists participating in the study, only one said he had encountered high levels of atmospheric barium in a "remote area" with standard low-level soil barium, according to the study published in Environmental Research Letters.
The study is based on survey results from two groups of experts, atmospheric chemists who specialize in condensation trails and geochemists working on atmospheric deposition of dust and pollution. All the experts but one believe the "nefarious chemtrails" can be explained by other factors, like condensation trails or poor data collection.
The scientific view of chemtrails is that heat from an aircraft's engines produces condensation in the dry, cold upper atmosphere. The trails of condensation can be seen from the ground. And it is obvious that as the airline industry grows, we will be seeing more condensation trails.
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Chemtrail Skywatcher/Twitter
"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 Stephen J. Davis, co-author of the study, and with the Department of Earth System Science, University of California, Irvine. "The experts we surveyed resoundingly rejected contrail photographs and test results as evidence of a large-scale atmospheric conspiracy."
Co-author Ken Caldeira from Carnegie Science says in a press release. "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."
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