And, because many elected officials run their own Twitter accounts personally, Barnes says it's a chance to make direct contact in a way one couldn't through traditional media.
"You always hear stuff like 'contact your congressman, call this number,' and it's something nobody ever does," said Barnes. "So I'm thinking, what's the easiest way to do it? How can we get the most amount of people to contact Congress from their own information?"
Barnes, then new to coding, wrote the app himself with the help of a team of more-experienced programmers, manually inputting the boundaries of congressional districts.
But is it working to bring attention to the "chemtrails conspiracy"? National Journal contacted congressional offices that had been pinged with SkyderAlert notices. Multiple offices acknowledged seeing the tweets, some with a chuckle, but hadn't responded to them.
Sen. Dean Heller, a Nevada Republican, responded last year to a constituent inquiry on chemtrails with a letter that discussed his own work on chemical-safety reform. New Jersey Republican Rodney Frelinghuysen also responded to a request about "the ongoing Stratospheric Aerosol GeoEngineering, Solar, Radiation Management programs" with a promise to meet with staff, although there does not appear to be any followup.
For Barnes, the app is one part of an attempt to lend more legitimacy to a movement that has its fair share of off-kilter behavior. The chemtrails conspiracy may be best known for its extreme believers, such as a woman who filmed herself yelling at the sky and spraying vinegar to clear contrails. Or a line of parody songs from YouTube user Michael Fleming, including "Smells Like Chemtrail Spirit," "Satan Claws Is Sprayin' Your Town," and "Under the Chembow" ("Somewhere under the chembow / children die / There's a land that's been gassed with / sulfur dioxide").
But with big data, the hope is to lend some credence to the arguments and raise the issue at the top. Skyder Alert compiles pictures of suspicious contrails on a map, an effort that Barnes said has paid off. In the days before a massive storm dumped 6 feet of snow on Buffalo in November, Barnes said his map showed a rash of unusual contrails (meteorologists said the storm was an escalated lake-effect snow).
Geoengineering Watch has pointed to a whole slew of negative effects resulting from "weather warfare," from UV radiation killing trees to clusters of cancer cases that it links to aluminum being sprayed on unsuspecting citizens. Even California's drought and the warming oceans have been linked to chemtrails.
So supporters are pushing to raise the issue with anyone they think can answer their questions. Skyder Alert joined the People's Climate March outside of a U.N. meeting in September amid established green groups. Arizona state Sen. Kelli Ward convened a two-hour meeting this spring in response to activists' concerns about chemtrails, where dozens of citizens slammed the government's secret experiments and raised alarms about being poisoned. The board of supervisors in Shasta County in Northern California even voted this summer to research chemtrails after a three-hour meeting that local media said was the best attended by citizens.