The Chemtrail Conspiracy Theory is the belief that the tracks across the sky left by airplanes, usually called contrails, are actually composed of illness-causing or weather-controlling chemical elements actively being distributed to the populace by malevolent parties like the Illuminati or a secret government program. The conspiracy theory is widely discussed in forums online.
“Chemtrail” is a portmanteau of the words “chemical” and “contrail,” and believers in the theory say that a chemtrail can be differentiated from a regular contrail based on its length. First discussed in the 1990s, after a theoretical United States Military white paper discussed methods for controlling the weather in the year 2025, the theory of chemtrails has always been denied by the United States Government, who released their first detailed statement on the topic in 1996.
Aircraft, engines, chaff, and flares can produce a variety of condensation patterns (or contrails), exhaust plumes, vapor trails, or smoke patterns. The exhaust emissions produced by aircraft and space launch vehicles can produce contrails that look very similar to clouds which can last for only a few seconds or as long as several hours. Vapor trails are formed only under certain atmospheric conditions and create a visible atmospheric wake similar to a boat propeller in water and usually dissipate very rapidly. Chaff and flares produce unique smoke patterns that are visibly different than a contrail but have the same color and appearance as a cloud but which also typically dissipates very quickly. Aerial spraying for pest or weed control and fire suppression are the only Air Force activities which involve aircraft intentionally spraying chemical compounds (insecticides, herbicides, fire retardants, oil dispersants). In the case of an in-flight emergency, jet fuel may be released to lighten the landing weight and minimize the risk of fire if the aircraft should crash.
Other sources, including late-night radio shows in the West Coast of the United States, continued to disseminate the theory, causing many to call local politicians asking for investigations. This activity has continued through 2014, when a well-documented case of 400 people sat at a city council meeting in Shasta County, California, and demanded that the councilors answer their questions and concerns about chemtrails. These days, information is often distributed through YouTube videos, of which there are about 850,000, and many of which have hundreds of thousands of views.
Chemtrails are believed in online communities to cause a number of illnesses, including Morgellons and autism (because the chemicals being sprayed are vaccines, linking believers in the Chemtrail theory with the Anti-Vaccination-Movement). One popular video, from 2012, shows a woman spraying the sky with vinegar to prevent the spread of chemtrails in her home.