Over the past several years, many reports of
high altitude aircraft
emitting unusual contrails have been made. These reports, appearing in print, on radio, and the Internet have generated speculation about the origin, purpose, and effects of these lines which appear to be more numerous over the years. This article will examine the answers to these questions, suggest some explanations for what is being seen, and describe what is not yet known about the subject.
The trail seen behind jet aircraft is formed
by condensation, much like our breath does when we exhale in cold
weather. The difference in contrail formation is that at the altitude
that contrails form, temperatures are very low and the condensation
droplets rapidly freeze into ice crystals. This occurs mostly
in the upper troposphere and the upper
stratosphere (5-10 miles high).
The essential conditions for contrail formation are:
1. Hot jet exhaust
2. Ambient air close to saturation with water
3. Altitude sufficient to provide temperature for condensation to
freeze, typically below -38C.(1)
Contrails have been observed since WWII, and their persistence(see mission #24) was noted by airmen since they made formation flying difficult.
If a contrail is formed in air of low humidity, the ice crystals will rapidly evaporate, but if the air is saturated enough, the crystals will persist for some time. When winds aloft are calm enough, the contrail will keep its shape, if the wind is strong enough, it will spread out and possibly form a cirrus type cloud.
Under special conditions of higher humidity,
ice crystals may grow from 10-20 microns in size up to 500
microns or larger. At this size, their weight can cause them to
fall up to 10,000 feet per hour. These fall
streaks can fall
for several kilometers from their point of origin, and in rare cases even reach the ground.(2) Normally, the ice crystals will reach an altitude where they evaporate. This same phenomenon occurs in natural clouds, especially cirrus, and is known as mares tails, or virga. These cascading flows of ice crystals, followed by spreading sheets of cirrus clouds so often foretold the approach of a storm front that an ancient sailors rhyme reads:
Since contrails are composed of water in the form of ice crystals, and they often eventually form cirrus type clouds, their effects are the same as natural clouds. Clouds influence our weather both by blocking the suns rays and by absorbing and radiating back heat emitted by the earth itself. Since air traffic is increasing as much as 5% per year, and the traffic is sometimes concentrated into corridors, the local and worldwide climate may be affected.
Over the last decade, NASA has been conducting
Effects of Aviation Project concerned with the possible effects of jet aircraft effluent in the stratosphere, primarily on ozone chemistry, and more recently in the troposphere, including climatic effects of jet aircraft contrails. To address the latter, the Subsonic Aircraft: Contrail and Cloud Effects Special Study (SUCCESS) field experiment was conducted in 1996 using several aircraft and satellites.Effects of jet fuel mixtures on effluent composition and contrail formation were examined for normal jet aircraft representative of the commercial fleet. Effects of contrails as well as ice formation processes in regular cirrus clouds were also investigated. These projects use normal aircraft and fuels to simulate air traffic and measure their effects.(3) The military is probably interested in lessening contrail formation for stealth purposes.
Since 1996, reports have been made about contrails
which allege one
or more of the following:
1. Military aircraft are spraying
biological or chemical agents via contrails and are flying formations
which sometimes form odd shapes.
2. A new military jet fuel, JP-8 with additive +100, contains Ethylene dibromide, and contrails formed by this fuel are causing various illnesses.
3. Aircraft are spreading a cobweb type material which causes various illnesses.
4. Military aircraft are conducting weather control experiments, possibly in concert with the HAARP project.
These reports are characterized by little documented or confirmable information, and no material analysis or medical reports have been published. Without documented and confirmable information, these reports can only be considered rumor and speculation. Some analysis of these reports can be made with facts that are known about contrails, aircraft, materials, and physics.
Spraying Via Contrails
As noted before, it is not necessary to have
any biological or chemical agents to cause contrails, they are
composed of ice crystals, and thus the existence of contrails
can neither support or disprove the delivery of such a substance.
The purpose of biological or chemical warfare is to disseminate
an agent to the land surface, and would be ineffective at the
altitude where contrail formation
In many cases, an agent released at these altitudes, which are typically five miles up or higher, would not be delivered to the ground for hundreds or thousands of miles.(4)
It is not necessary, and would be a general waste of time, to apply a biological agent over the vast miles of sparsely inhabited countryside of this nation. Some reports have come from the east coast, where high altitude spraying of a biological or chemical agent would simply drift out over the Atlantic ocean and affect no one. Common sense and logic would suggest that such an attack would take place at night, and over a populated area, or be carried out at ground level with a contagious agent.
Satellite observations have shown that a cluster
of contrails in New Mexico turned into a cloud covering more than
13,000 square miles. The cloud lasted 14 hours and drifted all
the way to southern Georgia.(5)
Many agents would degrade or evaporate in the time it would take to fall from such an altitude. Many biological and chemical agents rapidly degrade in sunlight. The wide dispersion of the agent would decrease its effectiveness due to loss of concentration.
Military aircraft do fly in formation during
training and refueling, commercial aircraft do not. Commercial
aircraft do fly in regular corridors between destinations, and
do therefore sometimes cause parallel contrails. They also could
appear to fly in formation while actually being separated by altitude,
this not being apparent from the ground. It would be extremely
difficult to identify markings or color of aircraft at these altitudes,
and many commercial planes are
of the same body as military aircraft(DC-10 = KC-10). Since the atmosphere is not consistent at different altitudes or in different locations, contrails can change, start, and stop as an aircraft moves through different air parcels. The random crossing of aircraft in parallel or in different directions, and the changes in contrails during flight can create Xs, Ws and even figure 8 markings in
the sky.(6) <http://www-pm.larc.nasa.gov/success/eightball.html>
JP-8+100 and Ethylene dibromide
The jet fuel additive +100 was developed at the Dayton University Research Institute to improve combustion and reduce maintenance of military aircraft. Dr. Steve Zabarnick, Ph.D., one of the developers, wrote:
JP-8+100 is composed of three components: an antioxidant, a metaldeactivator, and a dispersant. The antioxidant and metal deactivator species are common components that have been present in jet fuels, gasolines, and other petroleum products for many decades. The dispersant is a proprietary formulation of BetzDearborn HPG Inc. Ethylene dibromide is NOT a component of this package and, as far as I know, has never been used in jet fuel.(7)
Ethylene dibromide(EDB) was for several decades
used in leaded gasoline to scavenge and prevent lead deposition
in automotive engines. It was also used to fumigate soils and
grain during storage. Its use in the US was suspended in
1983. EDB is considered highly toxic, carcinogenic, and can affect
reproduction. The half-life of EDB is less than 48 hours in rats,
chicks, mice, and guinea pigs.
EDB has a half-life of 1 day in river water, and about five days in lake water. EDB decomposes when heated or in sunlight and cooking dramatically reduces EDB levels in foods. Plants are unable to take EDB up from soil, thus accumulation is not likely.(8)
Since EDB rapidly vaporizes into a gas, its effectiveness as a chemical agent dispersed at high altitude would be limited. Since it degrades through oxidation reaction when heated, and jet combustion temperatures exceed 1000F, its use as a chemical agent delivered in this way would be worthless.
A lightweight material resembling cobwebs or
accumulations of lightweight stranded material released at five
miles altitude would tend to drift long distances and would not
be an effective means of dispersing a chemical or biological weapon
with any accuracy. An observer sighting such material at ground
level could not relate its release with an aircraft release,
which would have occurred
at a long distance and time away.
Cobwebs do fall from the sky at times, and
are the result of natural causes. It is well known that small
immature spiders use their silk to provide transportation in migration.
These spiders emerge, sometimes in the hundreds, from each egg
sack. The phenomenon is widespread in the order Aranea and
is thought to be the primary means by which spiders disperse over
A recent sighting of a "cobweb-like" material was described by Tommy L. Farmer of Jonesborough, TN. The material, which was collected, but not analyzed, was described as "six to eight inches in length and about the diameter of a pencil". It was seen falling to the ground ten minutes after passage nearby of five aircraft emitting contrails at an altitude Farmer estimated at 10-15,000 feet.
In an experiment I conducted, a piece of fiberglass insulation was formed into the shape and size described by Farmer. This material was dropped from several elevated positions and was observed to fall at 2 ft/sec. At this rate of fall, the material would require 5000 seconds(83 minutes) to reach the ground. Thus, Farmer's material would not have been seen at ground level for well over an hour, not within ten minutes, as claimed.
This demonstrates the problem that would be encountered in delivering lightweight substances from high altitudes. The slow descent is further complicated by wind dispersion(scattering), and horizontal displacement(blowing sideways), which tends to carry light material many miles from the point of release and spread it widely.
Weather Control Experiments
It is known that the military is interested in weather modification for defensive and offensive purposes. A program to seed clouds with carbon black(soot) in order to increase cirrus and dissipate fog is scheduled for completion by 2004, $2.5 million is budgeted for this in 1999.(10)
Commercial cloud seeding operations are commonplace,
especially in the southwest and plains states. The High Altitude
Auroral Research Project(HAARP) is possibly intended for weather
modification, but is thought to not be in full operation at this
time. Since the HAARP project is designed to affect the ionosphere
which is 75 km high, and far above the earths atmosphere,
it is not reasonable that aircraft flying within the atmosphere
could aid that project. The level of experimentation in weather
modification by the
military is unknown, and has not been connected with contrails by any proof whatsoever.
Ironically, the relationship between changes
in the weather and contrail formation is opposite to the allegations
that contrails are formed to influence the weather. Actually,
weather conditions favorable for contrail formation are exactly
the same as those preceding a storm front, and are the same conditions
that cause natural clouds to form. Weather conditions do cause
contrails do not cause weather.
Origin of the Controversy
The earliest record of discussion relative to contrails is an e-mail message to an Internet discussion group, which reads in part:
From: Richard Finke
Sent: Wednesday, September 17, 1997 4:18 PM
Subject: [BIOWAR] LINES IN THE SKIES IDENTIFIED
GENOCIDE ON A WHOLESALE LOT
LINES IN THE SKY ARE IDENTIFIED!! SAMPLES Are ANALYZED!!!
The lab director of Aquatech Environmental
(a.k.a. AquaTel), Marion, OH, ph., (707) 8872228, using samples
taken from JP8 contaminated fields of Maryland and Pennsylvania,
reported today (9/18/97) that ethylene dibromide, otherwise known
as EDB, has been the contaminate in the fuel and water samples
taken of submitted by farmers, pilots and tanker drivers. EDB
is one of the most tightly controlled EPA substances and was banned
in 1983 due to its carcinogenieity. EDB is a pesticide that apparently
is being placed in the jet fuel and dispersed on a daily, almost
nonstop basis in our skies. The lines filling our skies are not
contrails. The lines are dispersed and may linger for hours, slowly
filtering down to unsuspecting pests, and I guess we're the PESTS.
This message is not an analysis, and no analysis is available from Richard Finke, who has admitted that both the lab name and telephone number are false. This false report has been widely circulated by e-mail and still appears on several websites which apparently did not verify its information.
On 1/25/99, talk radio host Art Bell interviewed William Thomas who has written two articles for Lycos Environment News Service that describe his hypothesis that contrails contain either a poisonous substance, a bacterial or viral agent, or a substance being used for weather modification. Most of the people interviewed in his article did not know that the Finke report was false, and Thomas admitted on Art Bells program that no analysis of any material or medical condition is known to exist.
On 1/30/99 Thomas issued an alert which said:
Something huge is going on. In many regions,
I can confirm that hospital emergency rooms are filled to overflowing
with a sudden epidemic of acute respiratory patients suffering
from something doctors cannot diagnose- and that is NOT the flu.....
What is definitely known and verifiable is that thousands,
quite possibly tens of thousands of Americans - and perhaps more - are becoming ill enough to seek medical attention after these fly-overs, which are continuing at a stepped-up pace as I write......... This is a national emergency.
On 2/10/99 William Thomas issued another alert which read:
To: John Hammell
From: William Thomas
Subject: TAKE COVER IMMEDIATELY
Tell everyone to STAY INDOORS when contrails are being woven overhead. I've got a BBC photo of a freezer semi filled with dead bodies in England all from sudden respiratory ailments. We're talking (according to the BBC) 6,000 deaths from respiratory failure in two weeks.
People are VERY SICK here. And spraying continues after heavy spraying last Friday over Asheville, Knoxville, Dallas and other US centers. I have this morning received reports of "many deaths" from a "cough that never leaves" in Louisiana.
This is big. This is real. I have positively verified that Emergency Rooms are overflowing with acute respiratory cases from coast to coast.
Doctors are telling the New York Times that this is NOT the flu. People are dying they say far more quickly and at rates far beyond "flu".
The only lab test I have shows JP8 present in soil samples after spraying. The ethylene dibromide in JP8 is banned by the EPA as a known carcinogen and an extremely toxic substance that attacks the respiratory system at very low doses of exposure...................
This is a MAXIMUM RED ALERT for everyone on
your list, John. TAKE
COVER! Stay indoors during spraying. This is NOT "woowoo". This is NOT a drill. Check my website for updates: http://www.islandnet.com/~wilco/index.html
Good luck to all of us,
The months of January and February are typically the peak of cold and flu season. By publication time for this article, it will be apparent if indeed a national emergency has taken place.
Richard Finke, who distributed the false EDB analysis, edited and condensed the book by Larry Wayne Harris entitled, Bacteriological Warfare: A Major Threat to North America. In 1998, Harris pled guilty to wire fraud for fraudulently obtaining vials of bubonic plague. Finke also wrote an article entitled Update On Anthrax 'Cures', Exposure, Vaccine Effectivity, by Ric Finke, LWH Consulting, which he describes as a defensive biowar and disaster recovery consulting firm. In starting the EDB spray rumor, Finke may have been seeking to drum up business for LWH Consulting.
William Thomas sells the USANA brand of vitamin and mineral supplements for sale on his website. Thomas writes:
You don't have to be a Gulf War veteran
to be suffering daily effects from Chemical Warfare (CW) exposure.
As a frequent writer on environment and health, while researching
a major article on chemical sensitivities ,I learned that Multiple
Chemical Sensitivity can be triggered by massive repeated low
level exposure to oil and other chemical releases. Once you've
become "sensitized" to certain chemical or petroleum
products such as benzene, chances are you will
also be sensitive to things like pesticides, perfumes or the formaldehyde found in abundance in almost every office and home. Anyone committed to recovering, protecting and improving their health should read on.
Thomas goes on to describe how through use his products:
Two years later, I
am virtually immune to the flu's and viruses that
constantly lay many of my friends low.
A link at Thomas
website advertises information on how to order
medicines from overseas without a prescription:
MEDICINES WITHOUT PRESCRIPTION
Faced with criticism of his hypothesis, Thomas recently has had to rally his flagging followers by saying, Until the lab results are in, lack of "proof" should not obscure an overwhelming preponderance of pattern and precedent.
Other websites that offer products which can
protect against contrails are:
website says: "I am sure the drug companies are selling
a lot of drugs, could they be behind this??? ". The same
site then goes on to say: "Stock up on vitamins LEF
800841LIFE tell them you were referred by IAHF.
Contrail formation mechanisms are ordinary and contrails themselves are increasing in number as a result of increased air traffic. Reports of persistent contrails are within what is known to be naturally possible. Contrail studies are underway which will increase our knowledge of their causes, frequency, and effects. High altitude contrails are not consistent with effective dispersal of
chemical or biological agents. No known toxic or harmful components have been proven to be in JP-8+100 fuel. Ethylene dibromide is not a viable chemical warfare agent when delivered through jet engine combustion. No medical reports, material analysis, or documentable and confirmable evidence has been presented which supports the hypothesis that chemical or biological agents are currently being delivered or can be associated with jet contrails. There is a threat to Americans from germ and chemical warfare, and vigilance should be maintained. Speculation and rumor without factual and specific information can only dull that vigilance. Those with factual information have a moral obligation to publicize those facts, but those who cry wolf are not acting in the best interest of this nation.
1. Online Guide to Meteorology, Department
of Atmospheric Sciences
at the University of Illinois UrbanaChampaign, Cloud Catalog, at:
2. Personal communication with David Starr,
SUCCESS, NASA, GSFC, 1997
3. NASA Langley Cloud and Radiation Research
Atmospheric Sciences Division NASA Langley Research Center
4. Personal communication with Patrick Minnis,
Scientist, Radiation Sciences Branch, Atmospheric Sciences
Division, NASA Langley Research Center, 1/8/99
5. National Public Radio, Morning Edition,
Aviation Threat to the
Environment, June 10, 1998, Patrick Minnis in interview
6. Minnis, P.;Young, D.F.; Nguyen, L.;Garber,
D.P.; Smith, W.L.,Jr.;
and Palikonda, R.: Transformation of Contrails Into Cirrus During
SUCCESS, Geophysical Research Letters.,25, April 15, 1998,
pp. 1157-1160 http://www-pm.larc.nasa.gov/
7. Personal communication with Steve Zabarnick,
Chemist, Aerospace Mechanics Division, University of Dayton
Research Institute, Dayton, Ohio, 1/13/99
8. EXTOXNET Extension Toxicology Network, Pesticide
Profiles, Oregon State University, Ethylene dibromide(EDB),
dibromomethane, rev. 1996, http://ace.orst.edu:80/info/extoxnet/
9. Suter, R.B. (1991). Ballooning in spiders:
results of wind
tunnel experiments. Ethology, Ecology, and Evolution 3: 13-25
10. U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command (TECOM)
Technical Mission, Test Technology Symposium '97, March 1820,
1997, Weather Modification, Dr. Arnold Barnes, Phillips
The author, Jay Reynolds, is an engineer who has extensive
experience in marine propulsion and gas turbine engines. He is an
independent journalist unaffiliated with any government or corporate