The day’s weather forecast calls for clear skies, then throughout the day, streaks of jet aircraft begin drawing lines in the sky leaving trails of long lasting cloud cover. What’s inside these ominous contrails that build and build from jet exhaust and are these contrails harmless? A deeper look into these jet engine emission trails detail they contain climate-changing aerosols such as sulfuric acid and black soot aerosols. Further research suggests jet engine contrails should be classified chemtrails because the jet fuel used is combusted into sulfuric acid and other aerosols, the sulfuric acid and aerosols create long-lasting cirrus clouds, and these aerosol-induced cirrus clouds produce weather issues associated with climate change.
Sulfuric acid and aerosols created from jet engine combustion come from a chemical reaction of kerosene jet fuel being burned at high temperatures and exhausted out of the engine compartment. Among the many species of emitted emissions are sulfuric acid Chemi-ions, which are formed during combustion in the jet engine (Lee, et al., 2010, p. 4684-4685). The impact of the sulfuric acid Chemi-ions can be directly correlated with ozone changes and the overall chemistry related to jet exhaust cirrus cloud formation (Lee, et al., 2010, p. 4694). As more and more data becomes available, it appears there is more to be learned from these chemical reactions happening in the skies above.
Because of the severe threat to climate change by the aviation industry, NASA has formed a group called the Aerosol Research Group (LARGE) with the main focus on aviation fuels and cloud formation. This group has conducted multiple research projects that include jet engine exhaust data related to different jet fuels used and jet engine emissions data taken directly behind actual airborne jet aircraft contrails. NASA’s aerosol research group shares all the data collected with the main mission of reducing the formation of long-lasting aviation cloud effects such as atmospheric heating.
One of the beginning areas of data that needed to be collected by LARGE was aerosol densities and size distributions using different jet fuels and sulfur contents was an experiment called EXCAVATE, which were performed on grounded jet aircraft (NASA, 2005). Many of the data points from this report are specifically related to sulfuric acid aerosols created and how they interact with the exhaust plumes. Black carbon was another big emissions factor that, together with the other aerosols, shows how volatile species condense and grow rapidly as they cool and age (NASA, 2005, p. 72). Kerosene fuel combustion with different sulfur amounts is found to create nano-sized sulfuric acid aerosols and other organic aerosols due to chemical interactions taking place during combustion and exhaust.
Another similar NASA report called ACCESS II takes the EXCAVATE test airborne. In this research flight test, NASA uses a fully equipped jet plane capable of collecting similar data and follows directly in the path of jet engine plumes during contrail incidents at different distances, elevations, and locations. NASA also uses lower sulfur jet fuels in order to determine if different aerosol and emission calculations will change along with contrail formation reduction. The nice part of this PowerPoint presentation of collected data is that it uses multiple pictures and detailed graphs to show the results of the jet engine exhaust emission data collected. Of particular note in the PowerPoint on page 16, focuses on the aerosol and contrail formation data, which shows the correlation between to the two events (Brown, Bastian, Pryor, & Talgoy, 2015, p. 16). This type of expensive research suggests there is a scientific necessity to curb the future climate changing effects of jet engine exhaust emissions and the long-lasting cirrus clouds produced.
Continuing in line with the NASA research regarding sulfur content and exhaust plume aerosols, the SULFUR-1-7 experiments use the most common aviation aircraft and several different jet fuel sulfur contents. Even more specifically, the experiment resulted in conclusive proof that sulfuric acid forms chemiions that help create additional ion growth (Schumann, et el., 2002). The experiment also concluded massive amounts of kerosene combusted sulfuric chemiions are created (Schumann, et el., 2002). One of the most telling pieces of the chemical emissions puzzle in jet fuels correlate with the specific amount of sulfur content and how the sulfuric acid aerosols formed play a very pivotal precursor role in aircraft contrails (Schumann, et el., 2002).
Since the creation of aerosols is foundational in longer lasting cloud cover created from aviation jet engine contrails, the combination of additional chemical sources are considered and black carbon soot aerosol particulates were investigated by experts and determined to have a strong relationship. The black carbon often referred to as soot, is non-combusted kerosene jet fuel; this soot exhaust possibly plays a stronger role in ozone depletion and cirrus cloud formation (Petzold, Strom, Schroder, and Karcher, 1999, p. 2689). During in-flight testing, jet exhaust aerosol data was collected from a Boeing 747 contrail in which the ice crystals formed by jet engine exhaust plumes were collected and analyzed. The results of data collected from the contrail showed soot making up 87% of the particle mass (Petzold, Strom, Schroder, and Karcher, 1999, p. 2695).
Conclusions made from all the test results and data collection proved soot plays a role in contrail formation due to chemical compositions that take place between one day and one week; furthering suggesting if these chemical interactions continue to last beyond the week timeframe, global impact of background soot could be compelling (Petzold, Strom, Schroder, and Karcher, 1999, p. 2697). Aviation jet engine exhaust emissions create chemical aerosol plumes, which in turn are actively involved in forming long lasting cirrus clouds. Researchers leave little doubt regarding the chemical composition of contrail-cirrus cloud formation caused by the burning of kerosene and sulfur from jet engine aircraft. The focus now becomes what global impacts on the climate are associated with these chemtrails.
The growth patterns of contrail-cirrus clouds have been confirmed by satellite visuals, noted in many studies that these cloud formations have different physical properties than naturally produced cirrus clouds (National Research Council, 1999, p. 26). As these chemical clouds grow and build from jet engine aircraft emissions, the effects on the climate not only become visually acute but the chemical sciences also prove ozone and radiative forcing are some of the climate changing impacts found. The National Research Council (1999) admitted these aerosol chemtrails modify cirrus clouds and cause significant climatic impacts (p. 25). The issue remains; how to counter the climate changing effects of chemtrails.
In 2000, the United Kingdom government responded to the visual and climate changing effects of chemtrails and asked their research experts from the Ministry of Defense Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA) to identify options to reduce climate-changing chemtrails. The focus of the report turned towards cause and effect data collection via satellite and radiation budgets versus using any technology to reduce chemtrails. DERA concluded there are no current measures that can reduce chemtrails (UK Ministry of Defense Evaluation Research Agency, DERA, 2000, p. 3-4). Of interest in the report regarding the discussion of reducing sulfur content in jet fuel, DERA concludes it is not a viable option due to the chemi-ion new particle formations in jet fuel without any sulfur content being the same as results with sulfur content (DERA, 2000, p. 54). If the modeling of aviation-induced cirrus clouds trends as suggested, the year 2050 will see an increase in 5% radiative forcing which will have a climate change impact of either a positive effect of warming or a negative effect of cooling (DERA, 2000, p. 49).
The DERA report further suggests the current cap and trade emissions trading scheme being proposed and implemented globally will make aviation impacts worse simply because chemtrails and ozone will increase radiative forcing that cannot be offset by carbon credits purchased (DERA, 2000, p.52). In answering the minimizing of contrails question in the DERA report, it appears little work has been attempted in this area. The military has tried a few unsuccessful approaches such as placing color in the chemtrails, seeding the chemtrails, and attempting to avoid areas prone to chemtrail formation however these reports are restricted (DERA, 2000, p. 53). Since these reports are held secret, it leaves many more questions as to what the real climate consequences are and if the chemtrails might be used in future military operations. There are a few unclassified military documents found on the World Wide Web that suggest geoengineering, or in simple terms manipulating the weather and is in fact being researched for use as a military weapon but is not in the scope of this research.
Furthermore, there is a report regarding geoengineering to combat climate change effects in the future by applying more sulfur into the higher atmosphere via aviation (Aurora Flight Sciences, 2011). This report discusses the chemistry of sulfuric acid and its introduction into the atmosphere that will allow some control over particle sizes that could be placed in the atmosphere to reflect incoming solar flux, thus causing a cooling effect similar to that of volcanic eruptions (Aurora Flight Sciences, 2011, p. 8). This report in detail provides delivery methods and cost using different aviation aircraft to load the atmosphere with sulfuric acid in order to combat climate change solar flux and the report does not account for effectiveness or risk associated with injecting sulfuric acid into the atmosphere (Aurora Flight Sciences, 2011, p. 6). Sulfuric acid emissions no doubt affect climate change either positively or negatively and yet the question remains how to solve the negative aspects of aviation-induced chemtrail-cirrus cloud formations.
Future predictive climate change models are being revised annually with aviation emissions being the most significant and fastest growing trends in the transportation sector. The 2030 predictive models used in this article indicate more specific research is needed in fighting aviation's impact on climate change. One of the most important factors of increased aviation impact is direct and indirect aerosol loading and their formations on chemtrail induced cloud cover. Particle aerosol distribution and fuel sulfur content is the main contributor to global cooling by the year 2030 (Righi & Hendricks, 2016, p. 4492). When comparing the aviation impact from the year 2000 to 2030, the modeling aviation-induced radiative forcing more than doubles (Righi & Hendricks, 2016, p. 4481). There are also signs of potential environmental health risk associated with the increased aviation traffic but not in the scope of this research.
However, health affects of adding sulfuric acid and other toxic aerosols and particulates into the atmosphere should at least be mentioned. A recent study attributes over 9970 worldwide premature mortalities annually directly due to aircraft cruise altitude emissions (Barrett, Briter, & Waitz, 2010, p. 7738). Secondary jet engine emissions are the main contributor to these mortalities (Barrett, Briter, & Waitz, 2010, p. 7736). This specific health related area regarding aviation's toxic emissions has very little research. Moreover, this health research should become a main focus, moving forward, since they will coincide with the climate changing impacts created by the increased chemical aerosol emission loads.
The chemtrail concept is overwhelmingly supported by multiple in-depth studies proving sulfuric acid and black carbon soot aerosols are being emitted from jet engines. The kerosene jet fuel, used with sulfur compounds, shows a chemiion exchange plume behind jet engines which promote long-lasting chemtrail cirrus type cloud production that effect climate change. Governments around the globe are concerned about the climate changing effects of aviation travel and are investigating ways to combat the growing issue. Whether someone uses the word contrails or chemtrails, they should certainly have the same meaning. There is little doubt that research confirms aviation contrails should be classified as chemtrails.
Aurora Flight Sciences (2011, July). Geoengineering Cost Analysis Final Report. (Report # AR10-182). Retrieved from http://www.keith.seas.harvard.edu/Misc/AuroraGeoReport.pdf
Barrett, S. R., Britter, R., Waitz, I. Global Mortality attributable to aircraft emissions, Environ. Sci. Technol 44(19), pp. 7736-7742, doi:10.1021/es101325r, 2010.
Brown, A. P., Bastian, M., Pryor, M., & Talgoy, P. (2015, January). ACCESS II [PowerPoint presentation]. Retrieved from http://science.larc.nasa.gov/large/data/ACCESS-2/presentations/6%20ACCESS%20II%20DATA%20IFAR%20MEETING%209th%20Jan%202015--Brown.pdf
Lee, D. S., Pitari, G., Grewe, V., Gierens, K., Penner, J. E., Petzold, A., Prather, M. J., Schumann, U., Bais, A., Berntsen, T., Iachette, D., Lim, L. L., & Sausen, R. (2010). Transport impacts on atmosphere and climate: Aviation. Atmospheric Environment, 44, 4678-4734.
NASA Langley Aerosol Research Group. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://science.larc.nasa.gov/large/aeronautics.html
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (2005, August). Experiment to Characterize Aircraft Volatile Aerosol and Trace-Species Emissions (EXCAVATE). (Report # NASA/TM-2005-213783). Retrieved from http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20050214696.pdf
National Research Council. (1999). Discussion of the Science Issues. Atmospheric Effects of Aviation: A Review of NASA's Subsonic Assessment Project. (pp. 9-26). Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
Petzold, A., Strom, J., Schroder, F. P., & Karcher, B. (1999). Carbonaceous aerosol in jet engine exhaust: emission characteristics and implications for heterogeneous chemical reactions. Atmospheric Environment, 33, 2689-2698.
Righi, M., & Hendricks, J. (2016). The global impact of the transport sectors on atmospheric aerosol in 2030 – Part 2: Aviation. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 16(7), 4481-4495.
Schumann, U., F. Arnold, R. Busen, J. Curtius, B. Kärcher, A. Kiendler, A. Petzold, H. Schlager, F. Schröder, and K. -H. Wohlfrom, Influence of fuel sulfur on the composition of aircraft exhaust plumes: The experiments SULFUR 1–7, J. Geophys. Res., 107(D15), doi:10.1029/2001JD000813, 2002.
UK Ministry of Defense Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA), (2000, September). Identifying the uncertainties in radiative forcing of climate from aviation contrails and aviation-induced cirrus (Report # DERA/AS/PTD/CR000103). Retrieved from https://uk-air.defra.gov.uk/assets/documents/ozone-uv/Contrail_Uncertainties.pdf