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Guest Thinkers

Aircrafts’ Vapor Trails Trap Heat

The innocuous white vapour trails that criss-cross the sky might have contributed to more global warming so far than all aircraft greenhouse gas emissions put together.

Aircrafts’ contrails function similarly to clouds by spreading out and trapping heat in the atmosphere. “High-altitude clouds like cirrus warm the planet by trapping heat. Contrail ‘cirrus’ does the same thing, but the question is: how much? We know that contrails trap some extra energy in the atmosphere: their radiative forcing trapped 10 milliwatts per square metre (mW/m2) in 2005, according to an estimate by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. That compares with 28 mW/m2 trapped by all of the CO2 released by aircraft engines since the start of aviation.”


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