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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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Plane Facts About Weather
7 August 2002 (All day)
Jet contrails--the line-shaped clouds produced by high-flying planes--have long been suspected of affecting weather on the ground. Now a unique experiment has tested the idea for the first time. By taking advantage of the U.S. air traffic shutdown during 3 days after the 11 September terrorist attacks, a research team has shown that jet contrails do indeed influence the weather.
Contrails are "condensation trails" made up of water vapor and particulates emitted from jet engines. Although contrails evaporate quickly in dry air, in humid air they grow into extensive cirrus clouds identical to naturally occurring clouds. Because clouds reflect solar radiation, they keep the ground cooler during the day. At night clouds trap heat, keeping the surface warmer. Researchers suspected that contrails would do the same in heavily traveled areas, but they never had direct evidence.
To fill that gap, climatologists David Travis of the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater, and Andrew Carleton of Pennsylvania State University, University Park, compared ground temperature data from 4000 weather stations in 48 states collected between 1971 and 2000 with similar data collected during the 3-day aircraft shutdown last September. The difference between daytime maximum and nighttime minimum temperatures was 1.1°C greater in the absence of contrails, the group reports in the 8 August issue of Nature. This difference was even greater in areas where contrail coverage is normally thickest--the Midwest, Northeast, and Northwest.
The results make sense, says climatologist and contrail expert Patrick Minnis of NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. The increasing amount of jet traffic could explain why the daily temperature range has been decreasing over many parts of the globe during the last 3 decades, he says. "If contrails are significantly affecting the diurnal temperature range, then air traffic is having a measurable climate impact and therefore should be included in model estimates of climate in the future."