Airplane Contrails May Increase Global Warming

A new study published in the journal Nature suggests that contrails produced by airplanes may be increasing global warming. Contrails are the cloud-like white streaks planes often trail behind them. Contrails form when the air temperature is less than 40 degrees F/4 degrees C and the air is humid. Opinions are mixed, but some scientists believe that contrails trap heat in our atmosphere, much like real clouds do, thereby increasing the greenhouse effect.

The study reports that nighttime contrails trap even more heat than daytime contrails because the effects of greenhouse warming are worse at night. Because contrails form in colder temperatures, they occur mostly in winter. Authors of the study want airlines to consider shifting more winter nighttime flights to daytime flights during the warmer months. Because contrails disperse after a short time, it’s difficult for scientists to study them. Until then, opinion will remain divided as to the affect of contrails on the Earth’s atmosphere.