Articles | Volume 13, issue 23
Research article
11 Dec 2013
Research article |  | 11 Dec 2013

Aircraft type influence on contrail properties

P. Jeßberger, C. Voigt, U. Schumann, I. Sölch, H. Schlager, S. Kaufmann, A. Petzold, D. Schäuble, and J.-F. Gayet

Abstract. The investigation of the impact of aircraft parameters on contrail properties helps to better understand the climate impact from aviation. Yet, in observations, it is a challenge to separate aircraft and meteorological influences on contrail formation. During the CONCERT campaign in November 2008, contrails from 3 Airbus passenger aircraft of types A319-111, A340-311 and A380-841 were probed at cruise under similar meteorological conditions with in situ instruments on board DLR research aircraft Falcon. Within the 2 min-old contrails detected near ice saturation, we find similar effective diameters Deff (5.2–5.9 μm), but differences in particle number densities nice (162–235 cm−3) and in vertical contrail extensions (120–290 m), resulting in large differences in contrail optical depths τ at 550 nm (0.25–0.94). Hence larger aircraft produce optically thicker contrails.

Based on the observations, we apply the EULAG-LCM model with explicit ice microphysics and, in addition, the Contrail and Cirrus Prediction (CoCiP) model to calculate the aircraft type impact on young contrails under identical meteorological conditions. The observed increase in τ for heavier aircraft is confirmed by the models, yet for generally smaller τ. CoCiP model results suggest that the aircraft dependence of climate-relevant contrail properties persists during contrail lifetime, adding importance to aircraft-dependent model initialization. We finally derive an analytical relationship between contrail, aircraft and meteorological parameters. Near ice saturation, contrail width × τ scales linearly with the fuel flow rate, as confirmed by observations. For higher relative humidity with respect to ice (RHI), the analytical relationship suggests a non-linear increase in the form (RHI-12/3. Summarized, our combined results could help to more accurately assess the climate impact from aviation using an aircraft-dependent contrail parameterization.

Final-revised paper