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A Case Study of the Development of Contrail Clusters over the Great Lakes

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  • 1 Hampton University, Hampton, Virginia
  • | 2 Atmospheric Sciences, NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia
  • | 3 AS&M, Inc., Hampton, Virginia
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Abstract

Widespread persistent contrails over the western Great Lakes during 9 October 2000 were examined using commercial flight data, coincident meteorological data, and satellite remote sensing data from several platforms. The data were analyzed to determine the atmospheric conditions under which the contrails formed and to measure several physical properties of the contrails, including areal coverage, spreading rates, fall speeds, and optical properties. Most of the contrails were located between 10.6 and 11.8 km in atmospheric conditions consistent with a modified form of the Appleman contrail formation theory. However, the Rapid Update Cycle-2 analyses have a dry bias in the upper-tropospheric relative humidity with respect to ice (RHI), as indicated by persistent contrail generation during the outbreak where RHI ≥ 85%. The model analyses show that synoptic-scale vertical velocities affect the formation of persistent contrails. Areal coverage by linear contrails peaked at 30 000 km2, but the maximum contrail-generated cirrus coverage was over twice as large. Contrail spreading rates averaged around 2.7 km h−1, and the contrails were visible in the 4-km Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) imagery approximately 1 h after formation. Contrail fall speed estimates were between 0.00 and 0.045 m s−1 based on observed contrail advection rates. Optical depth measurements ranged from 0.1 to 0.6, with consistent differences between remote sensing methods. Contrail formation density was roughly correlated with air traffic density after the effects of competing cloud coverage, humidity, and vertical velocity were considered. Improved tropospheric humidity measurements are needed for realistic simulations of contrail and cirrus development.

Corresponding author address: David P. Duda, NASA Langley Research Center, MS 420, Hampton, VA 23681-2199. Email: d.p.duda@larc.nasa.gov

Abstract

Widespread persistent contrails over the western Great Lakes during 9 October 2000 were examined using commercial flight data, coincident meteorological data, and satellite remote sensing data from several platforms. The data were analyzed to determine the atmospheric conditions under which the contrails formed and to measure several physical properties of the contrails, including areal coverage, spreading rates, fall speeds, and optical properties. Most of the contrails were located between 10.6 and 11.8 km in atmospheric conditions consistent with a modified form of the Appleman contrail formation theory. However, the Rapid Update Cycle-2 analyses have a dry bias in the upper-tropospheric relative humidity with respect to ice (RHI), as indicated by persistent contrail generation during the outbreak where RHI ≥ 85%. The model analyses show that synoptic-scale vertical velocities affect the formation of persistent contrails. Areal coverage by linear contrails peaked at 30 000 km2, but the maximum contrail-generated cirrus coverage was over twice as large. Contrail spreading rates averaged around 2.7 km h−1, and the contrails were visible in the 4-km Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) imagery approximately 1 h after formation. Contrail fall speed estimates were between 0.00 and 0.045 m s−1 based on observed contrail advection rates. Optical depth measurements ranged from 0.1 to 0.6, with consistent differences between remote sensing methods. Contrail formation density was roughly correlated with air traffic density after the effects of competing cloud coverage, humidity, and vertical velocity were considered. Improved tropospheric humidity measurements are needed for realistic simulations of contrail and cirrus development.

Corresponding author address: David P. Duda, NASA Langley Research Center, MS 420, Hampton, VA 23681-2199. Email: d.p.duda@larc.nasa.gov

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