IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group I: The Physical Science Basis

2.6 Contrails and Aircraft-Induced Cloudiness

2.6.1 Introduction

The IPCC separately evaluated the RF from subsonic and supersonic aircraft operations in the Special Report on Aviation and the Global Atmosphere (IPCC, 1999), hereinafter designated as IPCC-1999. Like many other sectors, subsonic aircraft operations around the globe contribute directly and indirectly to the RF of climate change. This section only assesses the aspects that are unique to the aviation sector, namely the formation of persistent condensation trails (contrails), their impact on cirrus cloudiness, and the effects of aviation aerosols. Persistent contrail formation and induced cloudiness are indirect effects from aircraft operations because they depend on variable humidity and temperature conditions along aircraft flight tracks. Thus, future changes in atmospheric humidity and temperature distributions in the upper troposphere will have consequences for aviation-induced cloudiness. Also noted here is the potential role of aviation aerosols in altering the properties of clouds that form later in air containing aircraft emissions.