Impact of Global Warming May Triple By 2050 Due to Airplane Cloud Trails

TEHRAN (Tasnim) - The climate impact of airplane contrails - the white ice clouds that sometimes seen behind planes as they cross the sky - is expected to triple by 2050 compared to 2006 levels.

Impact of Global Warming May Triple By 2050 Due to Airplane Cloud Trails

Contrails, those white ribbons jets leave behind in the sky, will exacerbate global warming in the next few decades, a new study published Thursday suggests.

In fact, the impact of contrails on climate change is expected to triple by 2050, the study said, USA Today reported

Contrails warm the atmosphere, said study lead author Lisa Bock, a researcher at the German Aerospace Center, since they can linger in the sky as cirrus clouds that trap heat inside the Earth's atmosphere.

"Under the right conditions, contrails can persist for a prolonged period of time and sometimes evolve into a complete layer of cirrus," the National Weather Service said.

According to the study, the increase in contrails is due to predicted air traffic growth, which is expected to be 4 times larger in 2050 compared to 2006 levels, and a slight shift of flight routes to higher altitudes, which favors the formation of contrails in the tropics. The impact on climate due to contrails should be strongest over North America and Europe, the busiest air traffic areas on the globe, but will also significantly increase in Asia.

Bock said that "there are still some uncertainties regarding the overall climate impact of contrail cirrus and in particular their impact on surface temperatures, because contrail cirrus themselves and their effects on the surface are ongoing topics of research. But it's clear they warm the atmosphere."

Short for condensation trails, contrails are actually man-made clouds formed by the heat of the jet engines, and then frozen by the cold temperatures outside of the jet. How much moisture there is in the air determines when contrails are visible and when they form.

There's nothing nefarious about contrails, though conspiracy theorists call them "chemtrails," claiming that airplanes are spraying toxic chemicals from airplanes.

The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, a publication of the European Geosciences Union.

Most Visited in Science
Top Science stories
Top Stories