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The contrails return...

Ian Fergusson | 09:21 UK time, Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Yes, they're back.

You've quite possible noticed how this morning's otherwise azure skies are criss-crossed by the high altitude contrails of airliners, as the ash-borne paralysis of UK airspace was relaxed overnight in a phased approach.

I've had a number of photographs sent to me this morning from Points West viewers, commenting on the sudden presence of the contrails.

"They're like pick-up sticks... the first indication that we're back in business," comments Steve Tucker, who took the photo below - in Yeovil, Somerset - at 8.30am today.

Contrails-Yeovil_Steve-Tuck.jpgIsn't it noteworthy how something so otherwise familiar in our modern skies can suddenly seem so very significant at a moment like this? They're a skyborne reminder of how we take modern air travel for granted - and how our world struggles when the power of nature brings it all to a sudden halt.

Fingers-crossed we'll see a good deal of stranded passengers brought home in the coming days. They'll find some very decent weather here on their return and by the weekend, it'll start getting noticeably milder as a southwest flow starts to establish.

Indeed next week has the potential to turn decidedly warm, even very warm, in the south and southeast especially.


  • Comment number 1.

    They are actually chemtrails, contrails don't remain in the air for hours!!

  • Comment number 2.

    Chemtrails if you subscribe to the conspiracy theories (and I don't); contrails if you subscribe to the meteorology (and I do). Their longevity is actually due to the prevailing conditions aloft today. Best, Ian

  • Comment number 3.

    Hi Ian,
    If as you are implying, contrails are created purely by water vapor from planes perhaps cross referencing trails with airline movements at www dot flighttracker24 dot com would change your opinion that these trails are not caused strictly by commercial planes. Could you also please expand on the prevailing conditions which were present today to cause a complete 'white out' of the south west skies within 4hrs although the BBC forecast remains fixed that blue skies are what you are seeing. Also how can these water contrails remain fixed and spread from the original point in the sky and are not influenced by wind or time. As i'm sure your aware it is also no 'conspiracy' that cloud seeding and weather manipulation by the use of various particulates to ionize the atmosphere thereby altering weather system has been heavily researched and tested and numerous patents exist online including the recent Weather Modification Research and Technology Transfer Authorization Act of 2005.

    Many thanks, Pat

  • Comment number 4.

    West Wales has a white sky this morning which consists of several contrails dispersing over, yes, HOURS. Of course they don't contain chemicals! Only water vapour, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxde, kerosine/parrafin, oxides of nitrogen - oh, hang on, aren't those chemicals?

  • Comment number 5.

    Is their any truth that contrails raise the temperature in the upper atmosphere ?

    I seem to recall a documentary on TV suggesting that following the ground of aircraft over US air space following the 9/11 attacks in 2001 there was evidence of temperature change.

  • Comment number 6.

    Hi Pat -
    No, of course I'm not implying only civil airliners cause contrails - military aircraft will obviously do so just as readily, above certain altitudes in certain atmospheric conditions. That's merely scientific fact - hardly anything sinister. Indeed, witness any old film footage of B17's, B24's or B29's (plus piston-engined fighters in the Battle of Britain) above Allied and Axis skies in WW2 and you'll see ample demonstration that military aircraft were creating contrails even back then (and - being rather occupied with other pressing matters - they were hardly busy cloud seeding or such-like!).
    Cloud seeding is a wholly different matter in any case - well documented and analysed in scientific literature, in the media too; experimented with over decades in varying forms and hardly a 'secret' in the strict definition.
    I would make a safe bet that military aircraft transponder codes are rarely, if ever, going to appear on free-to-view flight tracking websites. And why would they want to?! It would be a rather daft defence strategy to publicise themselves in such a manner! Civil flights tend to follow the established upper airways, reporting points and intersections, albeit with some exceptions to avoid potentially severe weather (e.g., clear air turbulence; severe thunderstorms, etc).
    The visible contrail patterns we see are very evidently caused innocuously by the very presence of aircraft, civil or otherwise. The longevity and other features of these anthropogenic clouds is quite easily demonstrated by science, rather than by pseudo-science and fantasy. Whilst the 'chemtrail' stuff remains in the realms of science fiction, a much more compelling and worthy study (worth a web search, incidentally) examines the potential influence of contrails on our climate. And again, it's not anything secret.
    Finally, the BBC web 'spot' graphics you cite cannot possibly keep-up with every veil of cirrus moving here-and-there aloft - anymore than other summary weather web graphics can do so, from other weather providers. The website www.sat24.com is always worth a peek for checking the prevailing cloud cover in near realtime (and occasionally - like this morning - you can spot contrails, too!).
    All the best - and thanks for contributing to the blog,

  • Comment number 7.

    Incidentally - when I refer to 'chemtrails' I of course mean in the accepted sense of some deliberate conspiracy effort, rather than the inevitable release of various exhaust chemicals / aerosols within contrails from the passage of any aircraft aloft.

  • Comment number 8.

    As you suggest, some may notice the contrails crisscrossing the otherwise azure, blue sky. Most couldn’t care a toss but for the astronomer working at ground level they are a curse.

    John C Vetterlein

    Auroral & Magnetic Observatory

  • Comment number 9.

    hi Ian .. i don't understand how these jets seem to be able to switch off their ' contrails ' .. i've seen them myself .. they seem to have a start point and a stop point ? .. i don't understand how they do this .. thanks Ian . i hope you are well .

  • Comment number 10.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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