Articles | Volume 12, issue 17
Research article
05 Sep 2012
Research article |  | 05 Sep 2012

Sensitivity of radiative properties of persistent contrails to the ice water path

R. R. De León, M. Krämer, D. S. Lee, and J. C. Thelen

Abstract. The dependence of the radiative properties of persistent linear contrails on the variability of their ice water path is assessed in a two-stream radiative transfer model. It is assumed that the ice water content and the effective size of ice crystals in aged contrails do not differ from those observed in natural cirrus; the parameterization of these two variables, based on a correlation with ambient temperature derived from in situ observations, allows a more realistic representation than the common assumption of fixed values for the contrail optical depth and ice crystal effective radius.

The results show that the large variability in ice water content that aged contrails may share with natural cirrus, together with an assumed contrail vertical thickness between 220 and 1000 m, translate into a wider range of radiative forcings from linear contrails [1 to 66 m Wm−2] than that reported in previous studies, including IPCC's [3 to 30 m Wm−2]. Further field and modelling studies of the temporal evolution of contrail properties will thus be needed to reduce the uncertainties associated with the values assumed in large scale contrail studies.

Final-revised paper