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Climate impact of contrail cirrus assessed
Aircraft contrails and the clouds that form from them cause a warming of the atmosphere, but until now the magnitude of the radiative impact from all contrail cirrus could only partly be estimated. In a paper published in Nature Climate Change, a global climate model is used to simulate the effect that so-called spreading contrails have on natural cloudiness and climate. This study suggests that contrail cirrus clouds are the single largest climate-forcing agent associated with aviation. Currently the climate is more strongly influenced by contrail cirrus clouds than by all the aircraft-emitted carbon dioxide that has accumulated in the atmosphere since the start of aviation. The findings are important because they provide the first estimate of contrail induced cloudiness on climate and a scientific basis for developing strategies to reduce the climate impact of aviation.
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