New research suggests that contrails will become more problematic for the environment in the future.
Airplane contrails (condensation trails) might not be part of some secret government conspiracy to poison the population or control minds, but they certainly are a threat to the Earth’s environment. In fact, scientists say that they contribute to global warming by trapping heat in the Earth’s atmosphere, and a new study suggests that this global warming effect will triple by 2050.
Increase in air travel and new technology are likely to make the aviation climate change problem worse.
The study, which was published in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, predicts that the global warming effect caused by airplane contrails will triple by 2050, due to both an increase in air travel popularity as well as new technology that allows planes to reach higher cruising altitudes where contrails usually form.
Ulrike Burkhardt, an atmospheric physicist at the German Aerospace Center’s (DLR) Institute of Atmospheric Physics, and co-author of the study, says that because of the forecast for increased significant air traffic “the contrail effect will increase even more than the carbon dioxide impact.”
“It will remain the largest aviation impact on the climate,” Burkhardt added, noting that it will even outpace the contribution to global warming from the greenhouse gases in airplane exhaust.
Airplane contrails have previously been found to be the largest contributor to aviation’s climate impact.
This isn’t the first time that contrails have been linked to climate change. Back in 2005, contrails were the largest contributor to aviation’s climate impact, when it accounted for 5% of human-caused climate change.
Although this is much less than the overall contribution to climate change from ground vehicles, aviation’s impact is expected to soar with an increase in growing air traffic.
As for Burkhardt and his colleagues, they were able to make their resulting projections about contrails in their study by running several simulations. These simulations allowed them to analyze the impact of increased air traffic, overall climate change and how enhanced aircraft engine efficiency coupled with alternative fuels could curb the formation of contrails, NBC News MACH reports.
That being said, critics of the study say that the researchers’ simulation could be overdramatizing the threat of airplane contrails on climate change. However, they do agree that in spite of what the future may hold, policymakers should take steps to address the impact that condensation trails produced by aircrafts have on the climate.