Variations in Contrail Morphology and Relationships to Atmospheric Conditions


  • David J Travis Department of Geography University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Whitewater, WI


The typical morphology of jet condensation trails (contrails) is not well understood, primarily due to the lack of in situ observations and the limitations imposed on surface observations and hard copy satellite imagery. This study utilizes digital satellite data to determine the characteristic morphology of contrails and their variation as a function of time of day (or night), amount of natural cloud cover, and atmospheric conditions at contrail altitudes. The analysis is undertaken utilizing the NOAA AVHRR digital satellite data. A total of 1018 contrails, occurring during the mid-season months of 1987 (January, April, July, October), are studied for their length, width, and areal coverage characteristics. Results demonstrate that the widest contrails tend to occur during the nighttime hours. Contrails are longest and tend to have their greatest areal coverage when occurring in cirrus shields. Additional relationships between contrail widths and atmospheric conditions within the 300-100 mb layer are presented.




Scientific Papers