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Marius Bickel
Michael Ponater
Lisa Bock
Ulrike Burkhardt
, and
Svenja Reineke


Evidence from previous climate model simulations has suggested a potentially low efficacy of contrails to force global mean surface temperature changes. In this paper, a climate model with a state-of-the-art contrail cirrus representation is used for fixed sea surface temperature simulations in order to determine the effective radiative forcing (ERF) from contrail cirrus. ERF is expected to be a good metric for intercomparing the quantitative importance of different contributions to surface temperature and climate impact. Substantial upscaling of aviation density is necessary to ensure statistically significant results from our simulations. The contrail cirrus ERF is found to be less than 50% of the respective instantaneous or stratosphere adjusted radiative forcings, with a best estimate of roughly 35%. The reduction of ERF is much more substantial for contrail cirrus than it is for a CO2 increase when both stratosphere adjusted forcings are of similar magnitude. Analysis of all rapid radiative adjustments contributing to the ERF indicates that the reduction is mainly induced by a compensating effect of natural clouds that provide a negative feedback. Compared to the CO2 reference case, a less positive combined water vapor and lapse rate adjustment also contributes to a more distinct reduction of contrail cirrus ERF, but not as much as the natural cloud adjustment. Based on the experience gained in this paper, respective contrail cirrus simulations with interactive ocean will be performed as the next step toward establishing contrail cirrus efficacy. ERF results of contrail cirrus from other climate models equipped with suitable parameterizations are regarded as highly desirable.

Open access