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Is there any truth to the chemtrail conspiracy?

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The Bible does not mention chemtrails, of course. But there are more and more people talking about them, so it is good to at least address the issue. When a jet aircraft engine burns fuel, it produces waste in the form of heat and various gases, including water vapor. Since the exhaust comes out at a high temperature, the water vapor remains in gaseous state and is normally invisible to the naked eye. However, at high altitudes, low pressure and ambient air temperature cool the vapor quickly, creating a line of visible condensation—artificial clouds behind the engine. This visual effect is known as a “contrail,” shorthand for “condensation trail.”

According to conspiracy theorists, however, these lines of condensed water vapor in the sky are actually dangerous chemicals being deliberately sprayed on the populations below. Such claims presume that these lines in the sky are chemical trails, or “chemtrails,” not contrails. Some theorize that the chemicals in chemtrails are for environmental or pest control, similar to the reason farm crops are dusted from smaller aircraft. Others fear the purpose of the chemtrails is more sinister. In all cases, the chemtrail controversy assumes a secret attempt to spread chemicals via aircraft, using the contrail effect as a cover.

As with all pseudo-scientific conspiracy theories, chemtrail enthusiasts have a litany of facts that they feel support their view. For example, conspiracy theorists note that the trails often appear in regular patterns. Lines may be non-existent one day and then be numerous the next. Sometimes one aircraft leaves a contrail while others flying in the same general area do not. More efficient modern engines, the theorists claim, should leave little or no trail.

A careful examination of the facts does not support the chemtrail controversy. Aircraft are routed into particular flight lanes by air traffic control, which is why trails frequently appear in evenly spaced patterns. Atmospheric conditions such as humidity and pressure have a major impact on the formation of contrails, exactly as they influence the formation of natural clouds. This not only explains daily changes in trail formation but why aircraft flying a few thousand feet apart might produce different levels of contrail, no matter how efficient the engine.

There are other, even more problematic scientific points to consider regarding the chemtrail controversy. Normal contrails form at a distance behind the engine as the water vapor cools. This phenomenon is evident in photos of aircraft flying at high altitude. Chemicals being sprayed would not leave this gap, and the heat and pressure of a jet aircraft’s wake would likely ruin any complex chemical structure. Biological agents would be killed by either the heat needed to vaporize them, the cold of the upper atmosphere, or the shock of rapid cooling. Any agent dispersed in the upper atmosphere would drift miles away and dissipate to the point of nonexistence by the time it got to the ground.

Even worse for chemtrail conspiracy theorists are the problems inherent with any vast, far-reaching conspiracy. The chemtrail theory would require cooperation and secrecy among tens of thousands of people in different areas. This would extend from high-ranking government officials all the way down to ground crews, pilots, and so forth. It’s simply implausible that so many unsupervised people could keep something like that quiet for long, if at all.

This conspiracy theory, like most, fails to account for simpler means to achieve sinister ends. If the government wanted to spread chemicals over its citizens, there are much quieter, more covert, and less complex ways to do it. For example, ground-based spraying would be cheaper, less susceptible to loose lips, and more effective, since the chemicals would be much closer to a target population.

Unfortunately, the kind of paranoid pseudo-science evidenced in the chemtrail theory is a regular feature of human society. We shouldn’t give it more attention or worry than it deserves (2 Timothy 2:23). The Bible calls on Christians to fact-check what they hear (Acts 17:11), apply reasonable skepticism (1 Thessalonians 5:21), and avoid buying into ideas simply because they are what we want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3). Despite the fears and claims of an uninformed few, there is no truth to the chemtrail controversy.

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This page last updated: March 31, 2023