Global warming, chemtrails and clouds

My friend, a young fisherman in coastal Maine, is convinced the government is seeding the skies with chemicals and microscopic particles of metal designed to promote cloud formation. His proof: common sense observations of the difference in the clouds above.

He insists that "chemtrails" are real, and my friend is not alone. Geo-engineering is a popular topic on chat boards, blogs and websites where anyone who puts quotation marks around chemtrails is objectively foolish.

I respect my friend's intelligence. He isn't "book smart", but he has even more company there, too. There are billions of people on the web who despite the lack of higher education nonetheless absorb freely available information.

Still, when I look up at the skies these days, I agree with my friend: on many days in New England the clouds are different from my childhood -- more than a half century ago.

Moreover I am sure our military and others' are experimenting with engineering the weather. They've said so. As a child, reports of aircraft "seeding" clouds to induce rainfall fascinated me. Expensive follies.

From reading peer-reviewed science papers published (freely available on the web!) I gather -- as a lay person and not a scientist -- that the study of cloud formation is extraordinarily complex. I also conclude that government interventions are no match for the power of nature. Period.

My friend believes that high altitude jets are criss-crossing the skies and spraying chemicals or metal particles, because -- to simplify his point of view -- he often sees on clear days how jet plane exhaust now forms clouds. I see something else.

This summer, around the world, the weather has been very hot. In some places, off the charts. This isn't hyperbole. The world is on fire, reinforcing warming feedback loops that climate computer models can barely track. I recently returned from Greenland where I hiked (covered with mosquito repellant) in a t-shirt and visited on a melting ice cap with rivers and lakes criss-crossing its surface. This is not conjecture.

Grenland, 60 miles inland of Ilulissat, June 2016

In public opinion polls, environmental issues -- like species protection, habitat conservation, clean air and clean water -- rarely rise to a top tier of public concern. The ones that do have a close correlation to car wrecks; BP in the Gulf of Mexico, Exxon Valdez in Alaska, Bhopal, India, Flint Michigan, and Florida algae blooms. Great visuals, immediate impact.

Climate change is emotionally atmospheric. People roll up car windows, turn on the air conditioning and get on with business. Yet roiling beneath the surface of climate change denial, most people experience anxiety about climate change on a deep level. They don't know how global warming could wreck peace, stability, and prosperity. Zika! They see what is happening, but their preference is to block it out. They just don't know.

The Republican Party recently put its stamp on "the block-it-out" platform that refuses any acknowledgement of man-made global warming or actions government could take to head our economy to higher ground. Meanwhile, in red and blue states, extreme weather dominates the news.

My young fisherman friend sees patterns in the clouds. I do, too. I try to explain, thanks to industry and progress, the thin layer of atmosphere that protects the earth now contains more carbon dioxide and methane gas than it has for tens of millions of years.

The atmosphere looks different because, it is different. Atmospheric, terrestrial and oceanic changes are moving chaotically as a result of human combustion of fossil fuels. Now the arboreal forests are diseased and catching fire. Now the permafrost is melting.

Climatologists can predict these impacts. What they are discovering is that even the most conservative estimates on rate of change are being overtaken by reality. By how much? We can't be sure. If every aspect of the weather were in a steady state and subject to observation, as scientists do with ice core samples from the polar regions, we might be able to devise more accurate computer models. But nature is dynamic, and the feedback loops so difficult to model -- what is emerging is logarithmic, not linear, change.

From the dawn of civilization we calendared the year as a linear series of seasons; spring, summer, fall and winter. With global warming, the seasons are changing. Sea levels are rising. The skies are different. Not linear but logarithmic change.

This is hard to explain to my fisherman friend. I don't see jet aircraft trailing chemtrails in the sky that change in the space of minutes from narrow white stripes to wide smudges. The people who influence governments -- and especially the military -- know that global warming is a real and present danger. That is what I see, when I look in the clouds.

Exponential Growth is an immensely powerful concept. To help us grasp it better let us use an ancient Indian chess legend as an example.
The legend goes that the tradition of serving Paal Paysam to visiting pilgrims started after a game of chess between the local king and the lord Krishna himself. (picture of 18th century Miniature of Lord Krishna playing Chess against Radha from National Museum, New Delhi)
The king was a big chess enthusiast and had the habit of challenging wise visitors to a game of chess. One day a traveling sage was challenged by the king. To motivate his opponent the king offered any reward that the sage could name. The sage modestly asked just for a few grains of rice in the following manner: the king was to put a single grain of rice on the first chess square and double it on every consequent one.
Having lost the game and being a man of his word the king ordered a bag of rice to be brought to the chess board. Then he started placing rice grains according to the arrangement: 1 grain on the first square, 2 on the second, 4 on the third, 8 on the fourth and so on:
Following the exponential growth of the rice payment the king quickly realized that he was unable to fulfill his promise because on the twentieth square the king would have had to put 1,000,000 grains of rice. On the fortieth square the king would have had to put 1,000,000,000 grains of rice. And, finally on the sixty fourth square the king would have had to put more than 18,000,000,000,000,000,000 grains of rice which is equal to about 210 billion tons and is allegedly sufficient to cover the whole territory of India with a meter thick layer of rice. At ten grains of rice per square inch, the above amount requires rice fields covering twice the surface area of the Earth, oceans included.
It was at that point that the lord Krishna revealed his true identity to the king and told him that he doesn't have to pay the debt immediately but can do so over time. That is why to this day visiting pilgrims are still feasting on Paal Paysam and the king's debt to lord Krishna is still being repaid.