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Modeled Impact of Cirrus Cloud Increases Along Aircraft Flight PathsThe potential impact of contrails and alterations in the lifetime of background cirrus due to subsonic airplane water and aerosol emissions has been investigated in a set of experiments using the GISS GCM connected to a q-flux ocean. Cirrus clouds at a height of 12-15km, with an optical thickness of 0.33, were input to the model "x" percentage of clear-sky occasions along subsonic aircraft flight paths, where x is varied from .05% to 6%. Two types of experiments were performed: one with the percentage cirrus cloud increase independent of flight density, as long as a certain minimum density was exceeded; the other with the percentage related to the density of fuel expenditure. The overall climate impact was similar with the two approaches, due to the feedbacks of the climate system. Fifty years were run for eight such experiments, with the following conclusions based on the stable results from years 30-50 for each. The experiments show that adding cirrus to the upper troposphere results in a stabilization of the atmosphere, which leads to some decrease in cloud cover at levels below the insertion altitude. Considering then the total effect on upper level cloud cover (above 5 km altitude), the equilibrium global mean temperature response shows that altering high level clouds by 1% changes the global mean temperature by 0.43C. The response is highly linear (linear correlation coefficient of 0.996) for high cloud cover changes between 0. 1% and 5%. The effect is amplified in the Northern Hemisphere, more so with greater cloud cover change. The temperature effect maximizes around 10 km (at greater than 40C warming with a 4.8% increase in upper level clouds), again more so with greater warming. The high cloud cover change shows the flight path influence most clearly with the smallest warming magnitudes; with greater warming, the model feedbacks introduce a strong tropical response. Similarly, the surface temperature response is dominated by the feedbacks, and shows little geographical relationship to the high cloud input. Considering whether these effects would be observable, changing upper level cloud cover by as little as 0.4% produces warming greater than 2 standard deviations in the Microwave Sounding Unit (MSU) channels 4, 2 and 2r, in flight path regions and in the subtropics. Despite the simplified nature of these experiments, the results emphasize the sensitivity of the modeled climate to high level cloud cover changes, and thus the potential ability of aircraft to influence climate by altering clouds in the upper troposphere.
Document ID
Document Type
Preprint (Draft being sent to journal)
Rind, David (NASA Goddard Inst. for Space Studies New York, NY United States)
Lonergan, P. (NASA Goddard Inst. for Space Studies New York, NY United States)
Shah, K. (NASA Goddard Inst. for Space Studies New York, NY United States)
Date Acquired
August 19, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 1999
Subject Category
Meteorology and Climatology
Meeting Information
Atmospheric Effects of Aviation(Virginia Beach, VA)
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
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