‘Contrails’: Do airplane tracks affect global warming or not?

When an airplane flies through the atmosphere, its engines have a very high temperature and emit water vapor; when this comes into contact with the cold of altitude roads iced. They so called tail tracks (not to be confused with hoax) chemical pathways). The white trail visible to an observer looking at the blue sky from his balcony has become a source of concern among the scientific community and industry, who now doubt the consequences of these aviation clouds for the planet.

Both environmental activists and other non-profit organizations have been denouncing this situation for some time. trails of white smoke contribute more to global warming than carbon dioxide from engines.

They are based on a 2021 study authored by David Lee, head of the aviation working group of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in which he noted that the warming effect of contrails is greater than the carbon dioxide emitted by engines. The article whose conclusions were assumed to be correct from the beginning, Contrails contribute between 1% and 2% to climate change.

Contrails are sometimes the source of conspiracy theories agencies


An effect has been questioned

But the social consensus on how harmful these vapor trails are has unexpectedly broken down. David Lee publishes a new review of his resultsWhere the numerous scientific uncertainties surrounding the subject are clarified and a call for calm is made.

The article concludes that “the basic proposition that smoke signatures should be reduced is not scientifically proven.” Beyond the greenhouse effect these scars could create, Lee points out, no one has taken that into consideration. They may also have the opposite effect as thought, namely the cooling of the planet.

According to this author, the cirrus clouds left behind by some of these planes, especially when they spread and persist as long, thin cirrus clouds, can help cool the planet during the day because they can reflect sunlight. This is just a theory, but it should not be ignored. But it is also true that high, cold clouds can also trap surface heat and thus play a potential role in the “greenhouse effect.”

And this dilemma is an example of how “unclear” and “complex” the research on the impact of contrails on climate is.

A plane leaving a vapor trail behind agencies


Lee even criticized misinterpretation of his data. The uncertainty about how aerosols (particles in suspension) interact with clouds is so great (there are numerous studies with very different results) that the assessment published in 2021 did not even dare to make a prediction on this subject.

More tests

Despite the uncertainty, the sector remains under media pressure from these groups. has intensified its scientific programs to understand the contribution of this phenomenon to climate change.

In October, international aerospace company Boeing and NASA conducted several flight tests from the Washington city of Everett. The test involved a NASA DC-8 aircraft flying over the city behind an Airbus 737 MAX 10 to ‘sniff’ its gases and analyze their signatures. The idea was to know whether the new sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) could reduce the incidence of aerosols that these aircraft release into the atmosphere.

Landing of a plane Pixabay


In parallel, Google and the association of Breakthrough Energy researchers (a climate action research group founded by Bill Gates) conducted a small experiment with American Airlines to test whether commercial pilots could avoid the most prone places in the atmosphere and create vapor trails.

In the first test this year, Google used AI to analyze satellite imagery, weather and flight data, and develop track prediction maps on 35 American Airlines routes. He then asked the pilots to follow different routes: one that did not pass through areas that facilitate runway formation, and the other that followed the normal route. The first route reduced contrail formation by 54%.

According to some researchers, “exaggeration”

During Scientists call for calm to stop measures that may be more harmful than beneficial in the long run. Other voices believe this is “exaggeration”. This is the case of Marc Sapiro, director of the Breakthrough Energy project, who disagreed with Lee’s latest conclusions in an interview.

The pressure also reached politics, especially in Europe. European airlines must monitor, report and verify climate impacts unrelated to carbon dioxide emissions on their flights from 2025. By 2028, following an impact assessment, the European Commission will need to make a proposal to address these impacts; The most obvious ones at the moment are contracts.

Reference article: https://phys.org/news/2023-12-nasa-boeing-jet-contrails-science.html

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Source: Informacion

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