By HOLLY LA PAT, Special to the Leader
LUCERNE VALLEY - Look ... up in the sky.
Residents have been noticing white streaks overhead in recent weeks. They don’t quite look like clouds, but residents said they don’t behave the way jet vapor trails usually do, either.
“Yesterday they were more toward Apple Valley or Lucerne Valley,” Jeff Hardy of Spring Valley Lake said on a recent day. “This morning they were more toward Big Bear. Now the white streaks have expanded and they’ve turned into clouds.”
Hardy says he’s been noticing and wondering about the streaks for the past month.
“If it’s the government, they’ll never tell us,” he said with a laugh to show he was — mostly — joking.
Some might worry that the streaks are “chem trails,” created by the government secretly spraying unknown chemicals high overhead. But it’s nothing so sinister, according to Violet Roberts, community relations and education manager at Mojave Desert Air Quality Management District.
“I talked to one of our air quality engineers about it,” Roberts said. “The streaks are contrails.”
Short for “condensation trails,” that’s the term for what we usually call vapor trails — those tracks planes leave across the sky. The trails are formed by water vapor which comes out of the tailpipes of aircraft, then crystallizes into ice.
But why do they look so different lately?
“First it’s emitted in the vapor form, then it immediately turns into ice crystals,” Roberts said. “Then, as it slowly starts dissolving and turning back into its vapor form, the vapor looks like clouds.”
In the summer, Roberts explained, the warm temperatures dissolve the crystals much sooner.
“Now that we’re in the winter season, it’s quite a bit cooler up there. It’s staying in ice form a lot longer.”
When that ice melts, it slowly disperses across the sky in cloud-like formations, instead of evaporating quickly the way it would in warmer weather.
“It happens every winter,” Roberts said.
Holly La Pat may be reached at 760-951-6234.