Monday, 04 Apr, 2011 Environment
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Aircraft Contrails Warm Earth More than Their CO2 Emissions

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According to a new study, aircraft contrails are more hazardous for the environment than their exhaust fumes.

Researchers say that the contrails produce high-altitude cirrus clouds. The latter catch the heat of our planet, stopping it from radiating back into outer space and thus causing more warming of the Earth than carbon dioxide emissions emitted by the same planes.

The study was carried out by a group of researchers from the German Aerospace Center (DLR). After performing a number of estimations, they found that contrails and the following creation of cirrus clouds account for 31 milliwatts of warming per sq. m., while the carbon dioxide emissions account for 28 milliwatts.

The negative effect of the contrails comes not only when they are seen in the sky, but also when they extend and mix with the normal cirrus clouds. Scientists say that in this form the hazardous contrails end up covering about 0.6 percent of the surface of our planet.

The team also mentioned that aircraft contrails do not stay in the atmosphere for hundreds of years, unlike carbon dioxide emissions. Thus in the future it would be possible to create planes that would either fly at lower altitudes or make use of engines that turn the emitted water into ice that in its turn would just fall on the ground, reports New Scientist.

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