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Meteorological Conditions that Promote Persistent Contrails

Wilhelm, Lena and Gierens, Klaus Martin and Rohs, Susanne (2022) Meteorological Conditions that Promote Persistent Contrails. Applied Sciences, 12 (4450), pp. 1-14. Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI). doi: 10.3390/app12094450. ISSN 2076-3417.

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Official URL: https://www.mdpi.com/2076-3417/12/9/4450


Climate-impacting contrails need ice (super-)saturation to persist longer than a few minutes. However, this simple criterion cannot be easily applied for the prediction of persistent contrails. The current weather forecast models, which lack humidity data for assimilation in the upper troposphere, have difficulties coping with the enormous variability and sharp gradients in the relative humidity field. Thus, ice supersaturation, which is an extremal state of relative humidity, is hard to forecast at a precise location and time to allow contrail-avoiding flight routing. In this paper, we investigate the possibility of using dynamical proxy variables for improved contrail prediction. This idea is guided by the fact that the probability of ice supersaturation differs in different dynamical regimes. Therefore, we determine probability distributions of temperature, water vapour concentration, vertical velocity, divergence, relative and potential vorticity, geopotential height, and lapse rate conditioned on three situations: (a) contrail persistence not possible; (b) contrail persistence possible; and (c) strongly warming persistent contrails possible. While the atmospheric variables are taken from reanalysis data, the conditions (a–c) are based on airborne measurement data and radiation quantities from the reanalysis. It turns out that the vorticity variables, and in particular geopotential and lapse rate, show quite distinct conditional probabilities, suggesting a possibility to base an improved forecast of persistent contrails not only on the traditional quantities of temperature and relative humidity, but on these dynamical proxies as well. Furthermore, we show the existence of long flight tracks with the formation of strongly warming contrails, which are probably embedded in larger ice-supersaturated regions with conditions that foster such contrails. For forecasting purposes, this is a beneficial property since the humidity forecast is easier on large, rather than small, spatial scales.

Item URL in elib:https://elib.dlr.de/186278/
Document Type:Article
Title:Meteorological Conditions that Promote Persistent Contrails
AuthorsInstitution or Email of AuthorsAuthor's ORCID iD
Wilhelm, LenaDLR, IPAhttps://orcid.org/0000-0003-2666-8378
Gierens, Klaus MartinDLR, IPAhttps://orcid.org/0000-0001-6983-5370
Rohs, SusanneFZ, Jülichhttps://orcid.org/0000-0001-5473-2934
Date:April 2022
Journal or Publication Title:Applied Sciences
Refereed publication:Yes
Open Access:Yes
Gold Open Access:Yes
In ISI Web of Science:Yes
Page Range:pp. 1-14
Publisher:Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI)
Keywords:aviation climate impact; contrails; forecast; mitigation options
HGF - Research field:Aeronautics, Space and Transport
HGF - Program:Aeronautics
HGF - Program Themes:Air Transportation and Impact
DLR - Research area:Aeronautics
DLR - Program:L AI - Air Transportation and Impact
DLR - Research theme (Project):L - Climate, Weather and Environment
Location: Oberpfaffenhofen
Institutes and Institutions:Institute of Atmospheric Physics > Earth System Modelling
Deposited By: Gierens, Dr.rer.nat. Klaus Martin
Deposited On:29 Apr 2022 14:41
Last Modified:29 Apr 2022 14:41

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