Articles | Volume 18, issue 9
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 18, 6393–6411, 2018
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-18-6393-2018
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 18, 6393–6411, 2018
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-18-6393-2018

Research article 07 May 2018

Research article | 07 May 2018

Contrails and their impact on shortwave radiation and photovoltaic power production – a regional model study

Simon Gruber1, Simon Unterstrasser2, Jan Bechtold3, Heike Vogel1, Martin Jung3, Henry Pak3, and Bernhard Vogel1 Simon Gruber et al.
  • 1Karlsruhe Institute of Technology – Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research, Hermann-von-Helmholtz-Platz 1, 76344 Eggenstein-Leopoldshafen, Germany
  • 2Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR) – Institut für Physik der Atmosphäre, Oberpfaffenhofen, 82234 Wessling, Germany
  • 3Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR) – Institut für Flughafenwesen und Luftverkehr, 51147 Cologne, Germany

Abstract. A high-resolution regional-scale numerical model was extended by a parameterization that allows for both the generation and the life cycle of contrails and contrail cirrus to be calculated. The life cycle of contrails and contrail cirrus is described by a two-moment cloud microphysical scheme that was extended by a separate contrail ice class for a better representation of the high concentration of small ice crystals that occur in contrails. The basic input data set contains the spatially and temporally highly resolved flight trajectories over Central Europe derived from real-time data. The parameterization provides aircraft-dependent source terms for contrail ice mass and number. A case study was performed to investigate the influence of contrails and contrail cirrus on the shortwave radiative fluxes at the earth's surface. Accounting for contrails produced by aircraft enabled the model to simulate high clouds that were otherwise missing on this day. The effect of these extra clouds was to reduce the incoming shortwave radiation at the surface as well as the production of photovoltaic power by up to 10 %.

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Short summary
A numerical model also used for operational weather forecast was applied to investigate the impact of contrails and contrail cirrus on the radiative fluxes at the earth's surface. Accounting for contrails produced by aircraft enables the model to simulate high clouds that are otherwise missing. In a case study, we find that the effect of these extra clouds is to reduce the incoming shortwave radiation at the surface as well as the production of photovoltaic power by up to 10 %.
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