Variability of Contrail Formation Conditions and the Implications for Policies to Reduce the Climate Impacts of Aviation

Although cruise altitude changes have been explored as a policy option to reduce the climate impact of aviation by preventing or reducing contrails, reducing cruise altitude can raise other environmental issues. This study describes an approach to balance the climate benefits of contrail reduction against the penalties incurred when cruise altitudes are restricted. Altitude restrictions are targeted by selecting, for each 6-h period, the altitude that provides the greatest reduction in contrail for the lowest increase in carbon dioxide emission. Calculations are for Western Europe. A new method is also developed to estimate contrail fractions within three-dimensional grids. Findings show considerable variability in contrail formation conditions and in the production of contrails. Overall findings suggest that an adaptive policy would allow restrictions to be altered when contrail sensitivity is unusually high. Contrail reductions and carbon dioxide emission increases obtained with this optimized approach are presented. These changes compare favorably with fixed altitude restrictions.


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  • Accession Number: 01002685
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Jul 31 2005 9:56AM