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VERIFY: Chemtrails conspiracy theory

The chemtrails theory has gained popularity due to social media. We're verifying whether there's any truth to this theory.

NORFOLK, Va., (WVEC) -- We’re verifying a topic our weather team gets lots of messages about: so-called chemtrails.

The idea that planes are spraying chemicals into the air is not new. But through social media the theory is gaining more traction.

Iisha Scott is here to verify what’s going on in the sky.

You’ve seen them. White streaks in the sky left behind by airplanes and jets.

Many in the science field know them as contrails or condensation trails.

You may have also heard of the term chemtrails, which seems to be a pretty popular idea nowadays. But are chemtrails real?

To verify this claim, I spoke with Les Westbrooks, associate professor of aeronautical science at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

He says, no, chemtrails are not true.

“The idea of chemtrails is absolutely false, the idea of condensation trails is absolutely true. It’s a meteorological phenomenon.”

It’s similar to blowing your breath into the air on a cold day, which forms a cloud.

“What you have is warm, moist air going out into a cold environment and the water vapor condenses and forms a cloud,” says Westbrooks.

That’s what’s happening at high altitudes. “Jet engine, when it burns fuel, one of the byproducts of the fuel that it burns is water.”

At low altitudes, condensation trails form differently because of low pressure on top of the wing.

Westbrooks says low pressure decreases temperature and when the temperature decreases it hits the dew point and instantly you’ll see clouds form.

In recent years the idea of chemtrails has taken off. Westbrooks says he thinks social media is the reason.

A study released in 2017 by researchers at Harvard found about 10 percent of Americans consider the chemtrails idea as completely true.

About 20 to 30 percent as somewhat true.

Read more about that study here.