21 May 2021

21 May 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal ACP.

Box model trajectory studies of contrail formation using a particle-based cloud microphysics scheme

Andreas Bier1, Simon Unterstrasser1, and Xavier Vancassel2 Andreas Bier et al.
  • 1Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt, Insitut für Physik der Atmosphäre, Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany
  • 2ONERA, The French Aerospace Lab, Palaiseau, France

Abstract. We investigate the microphysics of contrail formation behind commercial aircraft by means of the particle-based LCM (Lagrangian Cloud Module) box model. We extend the original LCM to cover the basic pathway of contrail formation of soot particles being activated into liquid droplets that soon after freeze into ice crystals. In our particle-based microphysical approach, simulation particles are used to represent different particle types (soot, droplets, ice crystals) and properties (mass/radius, number). The box model is applied in two frameworks. In the classical framework, we prescribe the dilution along one average trajectory in a single box model run. In the second framework, we perform a large ensemble of box model runs using 25000 different trajectories inside an expanding exhaust jet as simulated by the LES (large-eddy simulation) model FLUDILES.

In the ensemble runs, we see a strong radial dependence of the temperature and relative humidity evolution. Droplet formation on soot particles happens first near the plume edge and a few tenths of seconds later in the plume centre. Averaging over the ensemble runs, the number of formed droplets/ice crystals increases more smoothly over time than for the single box model run with the average dilution.

Consistent with previous studies, contrail ice crystal number varies strongly with atmospheric parameters like temperature and relative humidity near the contrail formation threshold. Close to this threshold, the freezing fraction of soot particles depends strongly on the geometric-mean dry core radius and the hygroscopicity parameter of soot particles. This sensitivity is quite low at ambient conditions far away from the formation threshold. Absolute ice crystal numbers, on the other hand, are controlled by the soot number emission index for all atmospheric conditions.

The comparison with a recent contrail formation study by Lewellen (2020) (using similar microphysics) shows a later onset of our contrail formation due to a weaker prescribed plume dilution. If we use the same dilution data, our and Lewellen's evolution in contrail ice nucleation show an excellent agreement cross-validating both microphysics implementations. This means that differences in contrail properties mainly result from different representations of the plume mixing and not from the microphysical modelling.

The presented aerosol and microphysics scheme describing contrail formation is of intermediate complexity and thus suited to be incorporated in an LES model for 3D contrail formation studies explicitly simulating the jet expansion. The presented box model results will help interpreting the upcoming, more complex 3D results.

Andreas Bier et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on acp-2021-361', David Lewellen, 20 Jun 2021
  • CC1: 'Comment on acp-2021-361', Bernd Kärcher, 25 Jun 2021
  • RC2: 'Comment on acp-2021-361', Anonymous Referee #2, 09 Sep 2021

Andreas Bier et al.

Andreas Bier et al.


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Short summary
We investigate the contrail formation in an aircraft plume with a particle-based 0D model. The mixing of the exhaust with ambient air leads to a strong plume variability. Therefore, contrail ice crystals form first near the plume edge and then in the plume centre. The number of formed ice crystals varies strongly with ambient conditions and certain soot properties only near the contrail formation threshold. Our results show a good agreement with a recent study using similar microphysics.