Abstract

Aircraft and Space Shuttles flying through the stratosphere over the next several decades will add sulfuric acid and aluminum oxide particles, respectively, to this region of the atmosphere. To evaluate the effect of these additional aerosols on the global heat balance, we have performed solar and terrestrial radiative transfer calculations. The solar calculations employed an accurate numerical method for solving the multiple-scattering problem for unpolarized light to determine the dependence of the global (spherical) albedo on the optical depth perturbation Δτ. Correct allowance was made for absorption by gases. Using these results, and those obtained from calculations of the terrestrial thermal flux at the top of the atmosphere, we determined the resulting change in the mean surface temperature, ΔT, as a function of Δτ. In both calculations, we used the measured optical constants of the aerosol species.

To apply these results to the problem of interest, we used engine exhaust properties of the various types of vehicles to estimate their optical depth perturbation and examined the record of past climate changes to set a threshold value, 0.1 K, on the mean surface temperature change, below which no significant impact is to be expected. Using the above information, we find that no significant climate change should result from the aerosols produced by Space Shuttles, SST's, and other high flying aircraft, operating at traffic levels projected for the next several decades. However, the effect of SST's is sufficiently close to our threshold limit to warrant a reevaluation as their characteristics are updated.

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