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Linda Forster
Claudia Emde
Bernhard Mayer
, and
Simon Unterstrasser


Estimates of the global radiative forcing (RF) of line-shaped contrails and contrail cirrus exhibit a high level of uncertainty. In most cases, 1D radiative models have been used to determine the RF on a global scale. In this paper the effect of neglecting the 3D radiative effects of realistic contrails is quantified. Calculating the 3D effects of an idealized elliptical contrail as in the work of Gounou and Hogan with the 3D radiative transfer model MYSTIC (for “Monte Carlo code for the physically correct tracing of photons in cloudy atmospheres”) produced comparable results: as in Gounou and Hogan’s work the 3D effect (i.e., the difference in RF between a 3D calculation and a 1D approximation) on contrail RF was on the order of 10% in the longwave and shortwave. The net 3D effect, however, can be much larger, since the shortwave and longwave RF largely cancel during the day. For the investigation of the 3D effects of more realistic contrails, the microphysical input was provided by simulations of a 2D contrail-to-cirrus large-eddy simulation (LES) model. To capture some of the real variability in contrail properties, this paper examines two contrail evolutions from 20 min up to 6 h in an environment with either high or no vertical wind shear. This study reveals that the 3D effects show a high variability under realistic conditions since they depend strongly on the optical properties and the evolutionary state of the contrails. The differences are especially large for low elevations of the sun and contrails spreading in a sheared environment. Thus, a parameterization of the 3D effects in climate models would need to consider both geometry and microphysics of the contrail.

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