The claim: A weatherman admitted the military is ‘spraying chemtrails’
Some social media users claim a meteorologist confirmed the existence of chemtrails during a weather broadcast aired over a decade ago.
“Weatherman admits military is spraying chemtrails,” reads text above a news clip posted Jan. 12 on Facebook.
“Spraying chemtrails” alludes to a conspiracy theory that the U.S. government secretly adds chemicals to the atmosphere for mass sterilization, mind control or weather control.
The Facebook video accumulated more than 8,000 views within a month. It was taken from a longer news clip from a CBS affiliate in Medford, Oregon, featuring chief meteorologist Kevin Lollis. The clip has been circulating online since at least April 2010.
Despite citing a news source, the Facebook post’s claim is wrong.
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Lollis didn’t mention the military “spraying chemtrails” at any point during the video. He mentions a radar countermeasure used during military exercises, as independent fact-checking organizations have reported.
USA TODAY reached out to the Facebook user who posted the video for comment.
Weatherman mentioned military maneuver
At the beginning of the video, Lollis says there is “a bit of an unusual situation” in parts of southern Oregon and northern California. Pointing to a radar that appears to show precipitation, he says a “military aircraft flying through the region is dropping chaff.”
Chaff is a defensive mechanism used by military aircraft to confuse radar-seeking missiles in the air, according to an Air Force fact sheet published by the Environmental Protection Agency. When a plane ejects chaff, the fibers – made of glass silicate with an aluminum coating – create a radar-reflective cloud that simulates aircraft and creates false targets.
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When asked for details about the purported military exercise referenced in the newscast, Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek told USA TODAY in an email that the service branch “does not maintain information pertaining to exercises held over a decade ago.”
Chaff is often released during military training exercises, as documented by images published on stock photo websites like Alamy. The defensive measure, along with flares, is crucial for older aircraft that constitute the majority of the military’s inventory, Defense News reported in 2018.
However, chaff can interfere with air traffic and weather-tracking radars, according to a 1998 report from the Government Accountability Office.
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In 2018, National Weather Service radars picked up chaff dropped from a C-130 near Evansville, Indiana, ABC News reported at the time. In a similar event, local weather radars picked up chaff released during a 2013 training exercise near Huntsville, Alabama, the National Weather Association reported.
The Government Accountability Office report says that, to avoid interference with radars, military facilities must obtain clearance before using chaff during exercises. There are also restrictions on what kind of chaff can be used, where it can be used and the altitudes at which it can be released.
Chaff particles aren’t a concern for public health, as their chemical composition is “essentially identical to soil,” according to the Air Force fact sheet.
Chemtrails conspiracy theory previously debunked
The theory that the government is releasing chemicals into the environment to control the population is unfounded, according to several government agencies and independent fact-checking organizations.
The theory claims some planes’ condensation trails are filled with chemicals because they are longer, brighter and don’t disappear as quickly as regular contrails, Smithsonian Magazine reported.
Contrails are ice particles resulting from water vapor emitted by an airplane as it burns fuel, according to the EPA. Some contrails look different depending on altitude, temperature and humidity.
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The chemtrails conspiracy theory has been debunked. In its fact sheet, the Air Force described the theory as a “hoax” that’s been around since 1996.
“The Air Force is not conducting any weather modification experiments or programs and has no plans to do so in the future,” the service branch wrote.
The EPA says on its website that it’s “not aware of any deliberate actions to release chemical or biological agents into the atmosphere.” Independent fact-checking organizations like Reuters and PolitiFact have debunked claims that photos of routine military exercises are evidence of chemtrails.
Our rating: False
Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that a weatherman admitted the military is “spraying chemtrails.” Lollis makes no mention of chemtrails in the video shared on Facebook. Instead, he mentions a radar countermeasure used during military exercises. Government agencies and independent fact-checking organizations have previously debunked the chemtrails conspiracy theory.
Our fact-check sources:
- Harvard University, accessed Feb. 21, Chemtrails Conspiracy Theory
- YouTube, April 9, 2010, Video
- LinkedIn, accessed Feb. 21, Kevin Lollis
- Lead Stories, Feb. 16, Fact Check: Weatherman Did NOT Identify Military ‘Spraying Chemtrails’ On Radar — It Was Anti-Radar Chaff
- Environmental Protection Agency, July 2014, Contrail Facts from the U.S. Air Force
- Ann Stefanek, Feb. 21, Email exchange with USA TODAY
- Alamy, accessed Feb. 21
- Alamy, April 24, 2017, Photo
- USA TODAY, June 13, 2021, Fact check: Angel-like flare from military aircraft is a defense mechanism, not a salute
- Defense News, Nov. 13, 2018, The US military’s chaff and flare industry is on fragile ground
- ABC News, Dec. 12, 2018, Chaff from military plane likely caused mysterious blip in weather radar: Reports
- National Weather Association, Nov. 24, 2015, Observations and Operational Considerations of the 4 June 2013 Chaff Event in Northern Alabama
- Government Accountability Office, Sept. 22, 1998, Environmental Protection: DOD Management Issues Related to Chaff
- Smithsonian Magazine, Aug. 22, 2016, Science Officially Debunks Chemtrails, But the Conspiracy Will Likely Live On
- Environmental Protection Agency, September 2000, Aircraft Contrails Factsheet
- Scientific American, Nov. 19, 2001, Why do jets leave a white trail in the sky?
- Environmental Protection Agency, accessed Feb. 21, Information on Contrails from Aircraft
- Reuters, April 30, 2021, Fact Check-Old military video is not proof of the ‘chemtrails’ conspiracy; it shows a widely known army tactic for hiding ships
- PolitiFact, Feb. 2, Claim that U.S. government is spraying ‘toxic brew of chemicals’ from airplanes is a conspiracy
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