Conspiracy theorists have been warning us about “chemtrails,” the allegedly chemical-laced clouds that are intentionally disbursed from all aircraft, for years. It turns out that contrails are bad, but not for those reasons.
A new study shows that, although they aren’t filled with chemicals to “dumb down” the world population, contrails do have a fairly significant negative impact on the environment. Specifically, they are contributing to climate change.
The contrails left by aeroplanes last only hours. But they are now so widespread that their warming effect is greater than that of all the carbon dioxide emitted by aeroplanes that has accumulated in the atmosphere since the first flight of the Wright brothers.
Worse still, this non-CO2 warming effect is set to triple by 2050, according to a study by Ulrike Burkhardt and Lisa Bock at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics in Germany.
Altogether, flying is responsible for around 5 per cent of global warming, the team says, so this figure will soar even higher – and no meaningful actions are being taken to prevent this.
“Lots of people talk about the need to stop air traffic increasing all the time, but this is not taken that seriously,” says Burkhardt.
Perhaps it isn’t taken seriously because most of the people asking to reduce air traffic are chemtrail nuts who think the Illuminati poisons their cereal. Either way, it’s important to forget about that now and look at the actual evidence.In this case, the data shows that all plane contrails are helping to unnaturally warm our planet.
All aircraft that burn fuels leave behind a trail of exhaust fumes and soot. At high altitudes, water vapour often condenses on the soot particles and freezes to form a cirrus cloud that can persist for seconds to hours, depending on temperature and humidity.
Clouds can have both a cooling and warming effect. They reflect some of the sun’s rays back into space, but also block some of the heat radiated by Earth’s surface. On average, both thin natural cirrus clouds and contrails have a net warming effect.
Burkhardt and her colleagues used a computer model of the atmosphere to estimate how much warming contrails caused in 2006 – the latest year for which a detailed air traffic inventory is available – and how much they will cause by 2050, when air traffic is expected to be four times higher.
The study found that contrails are worse for climate change than we had initially thought, and that reducing that effect would not be very easy. It paints a bleak picture, but there is an upside.
The one bit of good news is that as contrails become more common, they reduce natural cirrus cloud formation by using up all the water available. This cuts the overall warming effect attributable to contrails by a fifth.
Let’s hope the chemtrail believers give up their nonsense and fight for this legitimate concern regarding our continually changing climate.