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Condensation Trails

  1. Nov 16, 2003 #1
    Hey guys! I was wondering how physics is inlvolved in the forming of condensation trails or contrails.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 16, 2003 #2


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    Science Advisor

    Exhaust from aircraft engines and small particles to the air. If the air is near its dewpoint, with humidity high enough and temperature & air pressure low enough that cloud formation is close to taking place, these contaminants can act like cloud seeding, providing something for moisture to cling to, and triggering cloud formation.
  4. Nov 17, 2003 #3


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    Staff: Mentor

    There are two types of contrails, Lurch hit on one. One of the main products of combustion of jet fuel is water vapor. So you get condensation.

    The other is condensation caused by pressure changes in the wake of an aircraft. The wingtips usually cause this.

    Meteorologists use temperature and humidity information to predict contrail formation altitude. Not sure exactly how they do it, but you could google it.
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