Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Jet Contrails To Be Significant Climate Factor By 2050

Date:
June 24, 1999
Source:
American Geophysical Union
Summary:
By the year 2050, increased flights by jet airplanes will impact global climate through the greater number of contrails they will produce, according to a new study in the July 1 issue of the journal, Geophysical Research Letters. Contrails are ice clouds created by jet engines and are short lived in dry air, but can persist for hours in moist air and become indistinguishable from natural cirrus clouds.

WASHINGTON -- By the year 2050, increased flights by jet airplanes will impact global climate through the greater number of contrails they will produce, according to a new study in the July 1 issue of the journal, Geophysical Research Letters. Contrails are ice clouds created by jet engines and are short lived in dry air, but can persist for hours in moist air and become indistinguishable from natural cirrus clouds.

A research team of American and German scientists, headed by Patrick Minnis of the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, reports that contrails cause a warming of the Earth's atmosphere, although their impact is currently small as compared to other greenhouse effects. They predict, however, that it may grow by a factor of six over the next 50 years. In 1992, for example, contrails added an estimated 0.02 watts of warming per square meter globally, about one percent of all manmade greenhouse effects.

Air traffic and, therefore, contrails, are not evenly distributed around the globe.They are concentrated over parts of the United States and Europe, where local warming reaches up to 0.7 watts per square meter, or 35 times the global average. The resulting temperature increase is not computed in this study, but is estimated to reach between 0.01 and 0.1 degrees Celsius (0.02 and 0.2 degrees Fahrenheit) over the northern temperate zones for current air traffic. In the future, increased air traffic will raise these values.

Large, linear contrails can be observed in satellite imagery. Although their total global coverage has not yet been determined, it is computed from traffic and weather data to amount to 0.1 percent. In the parts of Europe and eastern North America with the heaviest air traffic, however, contrails currently cover up to 3.8 percent and 5.5 percent of the sky, respectively.

Minnis and his colleagues report that global air traffic rose by over seven percent per year from 1994 to 1997, in terms of passenger miles flown. Growth is likely to continue, meaning contrails will play a larger role in future climates than they do today. Taking into account such factors as number of flights per day, fuel consumption, and altitudes flown, they conclude that by 2050, average contrail coverage over Europe will be four times higher than at present, or about 4.6 percent. In the United States, the increase will be 2.6 times current levels, or 3.7 percent coverage; and in Asia, the increase will be ten times current levels, or 1.2 percent.

The researchers emphasize that these are conservative estimates, which take into account only the thicker contrails that can be readily observed. Thinner contrails and contrails that have developed into natural-looking cirrus clouds also affect climate, but their impact cannot yet be predicted. Other factors that would play a role include natural cloud cover, overlapping of contrails, and size of the ice particles that form in them. They call for further research into the full extent of current contrail coverage and the specific effect of contrails in forcing climate change.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Geophysical Union. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

American Geophysical Union. "Jet Contrails To Be Significant Climate Factor By 2050." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 June 1999. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/06/990624080829.htm>.
American Geophysical Union. (1999, June 24). Jet Contrails To Be Significant Climate Factor By 2050. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/06/990624080829.htm
American Geophysical Union. "Jet Contrails To Be Significant Climate Factor By 2050." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/06/990624080829.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 24, 2014) The eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, mainly known for conflict and instability, is an unlikely place for the production of fine cheese. But a farm in the village of Masisi, in North Kivu is slowly transforming perceptions of the area. Known simply as Goma cheese, the Congolese version of Dutch gouda has gained popularity through out the region. Ciara Sutton reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bill Gates: Health, Agriculture Key to Africa's Development

Bill Gates: Health, Agriculture Key to Africa's Development

AFP (July 24, 2014) Health and agriculture development are key if African countries are to overcome poverty and grow, US software billionaire Bill Gates said Thursday, as he received an honourary degree in Ethiopia. Duration: 00:36 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Higgins Breaks Record at Mt. Washington

Higgins Breaks Record at Mt. Washington

Driving Sports (July 24, 2014) Subaru Rally Team USA drivers David Higgins and Travis Pastrana face off against a global contingent of racers at the annual Mt. Washington Hillclimb in New Hampshire. Includes exclusive in-car footage from Higgins' record attempt. Video provided by Driving Sports
Powered by NewsLook.com
Storm Kills Three, Injures 20 at Virginia Campground

Storm Kills Three, Injures 20 at Virginia Campground

Reuters - US Online Video (July 24, 2014) A likely tornado tears through an eastern Virginia campground, killing three and injuring at least 20. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile: iPhone Android Web
          Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins