Persistent contrail = chemtrail?

WWII American bombers on a, errr, 'chemtrail' run.

The assertion that you can tell a contrail from a chemtrail by watching how quickly they dissipate (contrails disappear ‘within 30 seconds’, chemtrails last for minutes or even hours), is a fairly common and widely disseminated ‘fact’ amongst the chemtrail-believing community.

It is, of course, completely wrong. Visit’s page on the ins-and-outs on the science of persistent chemtrails for a good overview. It’s just a matter of physics: given the right combination of temperature, humidity and air pressure contrails can persist and (depending on wind) even spread out and form clouds. It’s just water vapour, after all.

Most chemtrail sites avoid the topic, or regurgitate the incorrect “persistent contrail = chemtrail” meme, but at least one chemtrail site does acknowledge the reality of the situation, at they write

… it is scientifically accepted that normal contrails may persist for hours and spread … the speed of dissipation of a contrail can be from a few seconds to hours. This varies with differing atmospheric conditions due to seasonal, daily, and frontal weather changes as well as global placement as varying local temperatures and humidity at flight levels provide differing ranges of persistence.

But, for the most part, it’s something the chemtrail-believers, once they’ve grasped, seem completely unwilling to let go. On this discussion over at uncensored, we have the usual recipes for contrail/chemtrail misdiagnosis.

  1. The original photos shown are, as per usual, nothing out of the ordinary. They could be contrails. There’s nothing about the photos that would make you think they were anything else.
  2. In order to support the argument, commenter CCCP claims that aluminium is being found in Christchurch rain water (the photos are from Auckland, but, whatever…), and then links to a Youtube video, made by none other than Clare Swinney, in which the persistent contrails = chemtrails meme is repeated, and the presence of aluminium (and, for good measure, barium) in the rain water is pinned on the ‘chemtrails’.

Astonishingly, in her video, Clare Swinney has actually resorted to some genuine science to try and support her claims. She’s sent off her rain water sample to a lab, and received back a nice breakdown of the elements found within. The numbers shown are…

  • Aluminium – 0.058gm/m³
  • Arsenic – 0.0011gm/m³
  • Barium – 0.0025gm/m³
  • Boron – 0.0166gm/m³

So, yep, there’s some aluminium in there, but is it suspicious that a (tiny) amount of aluminium (and the other stuff) should be found in a rain water sample? Short answer: no. The World Health Organisation point out that…

Aluminium is the most abundant metallic element and constitutes about 8% of the Earth’s crust. It occurs naturally in the environment as silicates, oxides, and hydroxides, combined with other elements, such as sodium and fluoride, and as complexes with organic matter … The concentration of aluminium in natural waters can vary significantly depending on various physicochemical and mineralogical factors. Dissolved aluminium concentrations in waters with near-neutral pH values usually range from 0.001 to 0.05 mg/litre but rise to 0.5–1mg/litre in more acidic waters or water rich in organic matter.

If we convert 0.058gm/m³ to the mg/litre (it’s ends up being the same, but just so we’re measuring oranges with oranges) we get 0.058mg/litre. So, ever so slightly into WHO’s ‘acidic or rich in organic matter’ range. And that’s actually less aluminium than you’d find in the drinking water of some areas…

In a large monitoring programme in 1991 in the United Kingdom, concentrations in 553 samples (0.7%) exceeded 0.2 mg/litre (MAFF, 1993). In a survey of 186 community water supplies inthe USA, median aluminium concentrations for all finished drinking-water samples ranged from 0.03 to 0.1 mg/litre; for facilities using aluminium sulfate coagulation, the median level was 0.1 mg/litre, with a maximum of 2.7 mg/litre (Miller et al., 1984). In another US survey, the average aluminium concentration in treated water at facilities using aluminium sulfate coagulation ranged from 0.01 to 1.3 mg/litre, with an overall average of 0.16 mg/litre (Letterman & Driscoll, 1988; ATSDR, 1992).

And the barium? It’s not surprising to find a (very small) amount in a random sample. Here’s WHO’s factsheet on barium. Again, the levels found in Clare’s sample are well within normal ranges. And from this site we learn (emphasis mine)…

Barium is surprisingly abundant in the Earth’s crust, being the 14th most abundant element … Because of the extensive use of barium in the industries human activities add greatly to the release of barium in the environment. As a result barium concentrations in air, water and soil may be higher than naturally occurring concentrations on many locations. Barium enters the air during mining processes, refining processes, and during the production of barium compounds.

Refining processes? Clare Swinney just happens to live down the road from New Zealand’s largest oil refinery. You’d surely be more surprised to find no trace of barium in any sample taken in the area.

Anyway, my point?

Just because a contrail persists, doesn’t make it a chemtrail.

Just because there are some ‘chemicals’ (ie. naturally occurring elements) in some rain water, doesn’t mean they came from a ‘chemtrail’.

There are normal, rational explanations for most things in life, and the existence of persistent contrails and the presence of chemicals in water are two of those things that can be explained quite easily with a solid scientific basis, without having to resort to a massive worldwide conspiracy.


7 thoughts on “Persistent contrail = chemtrail?

    • Yeah, I saw that post today as well. Uncinus, as always, sums things up nicely.

      But it’s hard to believe the “persistent contrail = chemtrail” meme is being persisted with by people who have obviously got enough brains to put together a reasonably well-made (if not well thought-out) documentary. Wild speculation and logical fallacies are all very well, but refuting basic, long-established scientific principles just makes you look stupid. Doesn’t it?

  1. John Perry says:

    Isn’t rain water produces by evaporation, the same thing as distillation where ONLY water molecules are extracted.? How do metallic elements get taken up?

    Thus, discussing GROUND WATER is mis-leading. It’s from the GROUND where all of these elements originate. Evaporation should leave all the elements behind,

  2. MikeC says:

    The occur because there is also dust in the atmosphere – the technical term for any solids or liquid particles in the atmosphere is “Aerosols” and you will see some chemtrail believers going berserk over that term appearing in any paper- some of them seem to equate the term with chemtrails.

    How much dust? dunno – the main sources of it are fires – both natural and artificial (eg coal & wood heating & electricity generation), and volcanoes – a good volcanic eruption can throw millions of tons up, some of which stays airborne for years.

    Aerosols are also generated by wind – simply blowing particles off the top of the sea (salt) and land (dirt, rock)

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