MENDOCINO COUNTY, CA- Debate continues to rage over contrails left by jet aircrafts. Some say they are the scenic spreading of water and ice crystals, but others claim they are an ominous sign of a secret project to alter the atmosphere.
Rosalind Peterson, founder of the California SkyWatch web site, remembers a childhood almost free of white lines across the sky.
"We had these beautiful, deep blue skies," Peterson recalls while leafing through hundreds of photographs of jet contrails above Mendocino County.
Peterson believes a dramatic change began in the late 1980s.
"Some program...something happened where the big jets began to start to leave these huge plumes that expanded over time," Peterson said.
Peterson has addressed a United Nations conference on the subject of jet contrails. She is not alone in believing the change is a deliberate effort to modify the earth's atmosphere as part of a military or government plan to alter the weather or further some kind of classified project.
"They produce these man-made clouds that exacerbate global warming, change the climate and negatively impact natural resources," said Peterson.
But she also says she is the first to admit that concrete evidence about the trails or their purpose is hard to uncover.
The lack of evidence comes as no surprise Dr. Ian Faloona, who is a UC Davis professor of atmospheric sciences. The claims on hundreds of internet web sites of a national or global conspiracy to change the atmosphere, he said, lack credible evidence.
"There's nothing inherently evil about a contrail. We know why it forms," Faloona said.
Faloona was part of a NASA research program in the 1990s that studied the effect of jet contrails on the atmosphere. "And it was hard to even see what the climate impact was of these small contrails," said Faloona.
He adds that research has shown the water vapor and ice from contrails apparently have only a minor impact on global warming. "They act in a certain way, like a greenhouse gas," Faloona said.
To salesman and Lodi resident Andrew Liebich the contrails in the sky are what he and others call "chemtrails." Liebich believes the contrails may be part of a global plan to alter the atmosphere.
"Maybe these chemtrails have something to do with geo-engineering the planet to combat global warming," Liebich suggests.
Liebich has photographed dozens of vapor trails in the sky above the Central Valley. His examination of numerous conspiracy web sites and research on chemical pollution has led him to believe the plumes may be part of an effort to weaken human immune systems.
"Why our immune systems are being lowered, I don't know the answer to that," Liebich said.
While Dr. Faloona is open to the idea of conspiracy as a factor in human history, he says the idea of contrails as some kind of geo-engineering seems extremely unlikely.
"There's so many people in my field who have their eyes on (climate change) very actively, to try to see what's happening, that it's hard to imagine they wouldn't catch wind of it, so to speak," Faloona said.
Faloona points to other sources, like ships off the California coast, where satellite images reveal large contrails. "Marine engines are known to be a lot dirtier," Faloona said.
The U.S Air Force has consistently denied any effort to alter the atmosphere with contrails. They have frequently called many of the web sites on the issue an internet hoax. The Air Force also provides a description why and how contrails are formed at: www.af.mil/shared/media/document/AFD-051013-001.pdf
The Air Force's explanation does little to comfort Peterson. She said she is accustomed to having her concerns discounted and even ridiculed.
"The official stance of the Air Force is that any talk about the jets is a conspiracy theory," Peterson said.
Peterson's web site is filled with links to research. Some of it has been conducted by U.S. government agencies that she believes bolster her case.
To Faloona, the issue of contrails and conspiracy pales beside the impact of everything else. "Looking for a few people in some high office that might be doing things -- it's hard to imagine they're doing nearly as much as the six billion other people," said Faloona.
For more on contrails and climate change, visit: