A NASA satellite spotted this strangely prominent pattern of long, sinuous clouds over the Pacific

By Tom Yulsman | February 14, 2018 4:31 pm

The conspiracy-minded will shout “chemtrails.” Of course that’s nonsense. But just what is creating these clouds?

Ship tracks

The northeast Pacific as seen by NASA’s Terra satellite. (Source: NASA Worldview)

I have to admit that I was a little taken aback when I saw these long, sinuous cloud shapes snaking across the northeast Pacific Ocean.

The image, captured by NASA’s Terra satellite on Feb. 12, 2018, covers a huge amount of territory — as is evident if you look to the extreme right, where a good portion of the west coast of North America is visible.

Before I get into what’s creating these features, let’s get something out of the way immediately: These are not so-called chemtrails — evidence of widespread spraying of chemicals that’s part of a government conspiracy to control our minds or, well, whatever. The chemtrail conspiracy has been soundly debunked, including by a survey of 77 atmospheric and geochemists.

Click to see typical airliner routes between the U.S. West Coast and Asia. (Source: Great Circle Mapper)

Click to see typical airliner routes between the U.S. West Coast on the Great Circle Mapper website.

Moving right along… I also quickly dismissed the notion that these were airliner contrails. That’s because these don’t look anything like typical routes between North America and Asia. (Click the thumbnail image at right to see what those routes look like.)

Okay, maybe military aircraft? I don’t think so. That would be a huge number of them covering a vast amount of territory.

And then finally I had my aha moment: ship exhaust!

A check of NASA’s Earth Observatory turned up numerous stories with imagery looking just like Terra’s above, including this animation:

ship tracks

Screenshot from an animation of GOES-West satellite imagery acquired on January 15, 2013, showing an area off of the west coast of the United States and Canada. Multiple ship tracks are visible. (Source: NASA Earth Observatory)

Just to make sure, I checked in by email with Scott Bachmeier, a research meteorologist with the University of Wisconsin’s Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies. “Those are indeed ship tracks — a few cases are documented on our blog,” he wrote back. For more imagery, make sure to click on that link to the excellent CIMSS satellite blog.

So, how do these ship tracks form, and why are they so very prominent?

It all starts with tiny particles — byproducts of combustion in the ships’ engines — that are spewed into the atmosphere. Each one of these aerosols is a tiny seed around which water vapor in the atmosphere can condense. That condensation creates cloud droplets. And as a ship moves, a trail of these cloud droplets is left behind.

Here’s why they are so prominent: Although the atmosphere over the ocean holds natural aerosols such as sea salt and dust, ships spew out a very concentrated load. So with more nuclei, more cloud droplets are formed.

Moreover, these droplets are smaller than natural atmospheric aerosols. And as it turns out, smaller droplets reflect more sunlight than bigger ones. So the tracks they form are brighter than natural clouds.

  • Steve Svensson

    Ship exhaust?
    Did a 12 yr old write this article.
    Ship exhaust.
    Still getting a chuckle at how sad you deep state
    chemtrail apologists are.
    You time is over []

    • Gildakid


    • Dano2

      I was tracking these before there were hapless comedians ululating about HAARP.

    • http://www.itskeptic.org/ Rob England (The IT Skeptic)

      Off your meds?

  • Hana Anissa

    you time is over hahahahahahahahhaha
    please visit my website jadwal bola piala dunia

  • OWilson

    ” I also quickly dismissed the notion that these were airliner contrails. That’s because these don’t look anything like typical routes between North America and Asia.”

    They do when you factor in atmospheric dissipation! No different from atmospherically dissipated airliner contrails?

    • Dano2

      Educate yourself.

      • OWilson

        So’s yer old man! :)

    • Jim SA

      None of you are right

  • Matter of Trust

    its it ships causing same patterns over land ?

  • Eric Cypher

    Since when are MANmade emissions not Chemicals. What are the Particles and the Influence on Public Health and the Climate…! Small Particles can pass through the Blood Brain Barrier a lot easier than larger Particles. Stop trying to Normalize Pollution as Safe or Natural😉

    • Eric Cypher

      Environmental effects. When sulfur dioxide combines with water and air, it forms sulfuric acid, which is the main component of acid rain. Acid rain can: cause deforestation.Mar 27, 2017

      • Eric Cypher

        “SO2 emissions that lead to high concentrations of SO2 in the air generally also lead to the formation of other sulfur oxides (SOx). SOx can react with other compounds in the atmosphere to form small particles. These particles contribute to particulate matter (PM) pollution: particles may penetrate deeply into sensitive parts of the lungs and cause additional health problems.”

        • Eric Cypher

          Human health effects of sulfur dioxide:
          “It irritates the nose, throat, and airways to cause coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, or a tight feeling around the chest. The effects of sulfur dioxide are felt very quickly and most people would feel the worst symptoms in 10 or 15 minutes after breathing it in.”

    • Eric Cypher

      “Marine cloud brightening is a proposed solar radiation management climate engineering technique that would make clouds brighter, reflecting a small fraction of incoming sunlight back into space in order to offset anthropogenic global warming. Along with stratospheric aerosol injection, it is one of the two solar radiation management methods that may most feasibly have a substantial climate impact.[1] “

    • Eric Cypher
  • Dano2

    I have to admit even cynical Dano didn’t expect HAARPers here.

    At least I was entertained.

  • Mo Moe

    How many rare emissions shipping vessels are out there making hundred of miles long trails in all kinds of directions in such sort time??? Use the science terms. Far more scientist refused to deny that climate engineering wasn’t already happening. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a88cdb4724784c41274acb73ae502f12857368c24400817275cc4dd1811a4c68.png

  • TLongmire

    If you look at the size of Vancouver island in the image then you can see that all of those “ships” are not leaving Shanghai but are converging approximately 1200 miles off the coast. Were there any air craft carriers in that location???

    • okiejoe

      The US operates most of the aircraft carriers and they are all nuclear powered – no exhaust plumes.

      • TLongmire

        Yes but the aircraft they deploy do and presumably the information is public.

      • Jim SA

        so what none of you are right anyway

  • Patrick Roddie

    Funny how the author failed to mention that these “ship tracks” don’t follow major shipping lanes or of the geoengineering proposal of marine cloud brightening: https://stopsprayingus.com/ship-tracks/

  • TheGrover

    There are patents going back to Howard Hughes for this… The Media is hiding this for The CIA and other Agencies… Here, CIA Director John Brennan discusses Stratospheric Aerosol Injection aka Chemtrails at the CFR: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9kdDkYfaNMQ

  • http://robertdavidgraham.com Robert David Graham

    Another bullshit “pay no attention to the CFR man behind the curtain who owns the world’s largest aluminum manufacturer” kind of article.

  • http://w11.zetaboards.com/The_Mythi_List/index/ Zeta

    Nothing to see. Go to sleep. Sleep. Sleep. Sheep.

  • malimut@msn.com

    What a “CROCK” walked outside this morning and my eyes were scratchy within minutes.. looked up and low and behold “Ship tracks on land..”



ImaGeo is a visual blog focusing on the intersection of imagery, imagination and Earth. It focuses on spectacular visuals related to the science of our planet, with an emphasis (although not an exclusive one) on the unfolding Anthropocene Epoch.

About Tom Yulsman

Tom Yulsman is Director of the Center for Environmental Journalism and a Professor of Journalism at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He also continues to work as a science and environmental journalist with more than 30 years of experience producing content for major publications. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Audubon, Climate Central, Columbia Journalism Review, Discover, Nieman Reports, and many other publications. He has held a variety of editorial positions over the years, including a stint as editor-in-chief of Earth magazine. Yulsman has written one book: Origins: the Quest for Our Cosmic Roots, published by the Institute of Physics in 2003.


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