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Truth behind contrails that appear in the sky and cause bizarre conspiracy theories

Truth behind contrails that appear in the sky and cause bizarre conspiracy theories

Despite what online conspiracy theorists tell you, the explanation behind contrails is far less threatening.

If you’ve ever looked up on a clear day, you’ve probably seen a plane streaking across the sky – leaving a bright white line as it passes overhead.

While contrails are nothing new, they seem to have taken flight in people’s imaginations with tons of conspiracy theories about the phenomenon.

Sadly though, the truth about them is far less exotic so you might want to reconsider packing your tin foil hat…

It’s not clear when these bizarre theories began, but many online allege that contrails are part of a governmental plan to dump toxic chemicals into the atmosphere.

Known as ‘chemtrails’, the reasons for this vary from population control to the Illuminati. (Yes, really)

However, the actual explanation is far less exciting.

The signature white lines has caused concern online.

The signature white lines are known as condensation trails or ‘contrails’ in the aviation industry and appear in the sky as planes burn fuel.

As this occurs, the cold air around jets will usually condense and leave a trail of water vapour behind them, which then combines with soot to form ice crystals.

In humid conditions, this then also results in the fluffy clouds you’ll see against the bright blue sky.

Whilst there is nothing specifically harmful to the contrails, scientists have recently discovered that they could be inadvertently worsening global warming. (Eek!)

Occasionally, the trails will spread and merge to form cirrus-like clouds which trap heat at the lower levels of Earth’s atmosphere.

Even more alarmingly, given the right weather conditions this can spread over thousands of miles – warming the planet below.

With concern about climate change at an all-time high, the aviation industry is having to find innovative solutions to stop this – including using AI.

The phenomenon can cause global warming.
Pexels/ Alexey Demidov

Though it sounds like the stuff of science fiction, a group of researchers from Google, American Airlines and sustainability firm Breakthrough Energy think they’ve found the answer.

Using AI predictions and open-source models of contrails, the team were able to accurately predict the altitude when the phenomenon would most likely occur.

They then tested the theory over 70 flights and incredibly, were able to help pilots reduces instances by approximately 54 per cent.

Despite this, the tech hasn’t quite taken flight just yet with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) expecting it could take ‘up to a decade’ for this to be refined.

However, the researchers are hoping that the system might be widely available a lot sooner.

In a post on the Google Research blog, Carl Elkin and Dinesh Sanekommu spoke about their discovery and wrote: “This is the first proof point that commercial flights can verifiably avoid contrails and thereby reduce their climate impact.”

Sounds like the the sky is the limit for AI.

Featured Image Credit: FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images / Robert Alexander/Getty Images

Topics: Travel, Science, Technology