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What are the streaks behind a plane in the sky?

Posted by Cirrus Aviation on May 3, 2016 10:55:12 AM

Aviation has fascinated and mystified people ever since the Wright brothers first took flight more than one hundred years ago. When you look up to the sky, you may notice that planes leave behind white streaks that often linger for some time. What exactly causes these streaks?

Airplane vapor trails

Airplane vapor trails, more commonly known as contrails, form when airplane exhaust and cold air combine. As airplanes burn fuel, they produce exhaust, causing gases, water vapor and solid particles to flow out of the engine. When these substances meet with the low air temperatures found at cruising altitude, the vapor freezes around the particles, producing white cloud-like patterns behind the plane. Contrails formed in dryer air tend to disappear almost as soon as they appear. Humid air can create persistent contrails which remain in the sky for longer lengths of time, either in thin straight lines or as spreading shapes that appear more like natural clouds.

Similar vapor trails can also appear behind the wing tips of planes on take off or landing. These patterns are caused by a change in temperature and pressure in the vortex behind the wings, but are not considered true contrails.

The Chemtrail Conspiracy

Over the years, many people have developed concerns that contrails may harm the environment or are evidence of government pumping chemicals into the atmosphere. If this sounds a bit far fetched, you’re probably right. Most scientists explain that contrails occur so high in the atmosphere that any chemicals released would dissipate without having any effect.

Chemtrails are also often discussed within the context of weather manipulation. Despite the mad scientist-esque nature of this concept, there have been some experiments to chemically control precipitation. Cloud seeding is a process in which silver iodide, salt or dry ice is released into the atmosphere to encourage rain. Interestingly, the Chinese have had some success with preventing rain using rain dispersal rockets prior to the opening ceremony of the 2008 summer Olympics.

Airplane vapor trails are a natural consequence of the interaction between cold air, water vapor, and solid particles. Call (702)-472-9714 to book your private jet charter.

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Topics: Jet Charter Educational, Travel