Exploring the Physics of Condensation Trails: How Contrails Form

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In summary, the conversation discusses how physics is involved in the formation of condensation trails or contrails. It is explained that exhaust from aircraft engines and small particles in the air can act as cloud seeding, triggering cloud formation if the air is near its dewpoint. There are two types of contrails, one caused by combustion of jet fuel and the other by pressure changes in the wake of an aircraft. Meteorologists use temperature and humidity information to predict contrail formation altitude.
  • #1
thegreatone09
Hey guys! I was wondering how physics is inlvolved in the forming of condensation trails or contrails.
 
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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.
 
  • #3
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.
 

1. What are condensation trails, or contrails?

Condensation trails, or contrails, are long, thin clouds that form behind aircraft when water vapor condenses and freezes around small particles in the exhaust gases. They typically form at high altitudes and can persist for several hours.

2. How do contrails form?

Contrails form when hot, humid exhaust gases from aircraft engines mix with the cold air at high altitudes. The water vapor in the exhaust gases condenses and freezes into tiny ice particles, forming the visible trail behind the aircraft.

3. What factors influence the formation of contrails?

The main factors that influence the formation of contrails include the temperature and humidity of the air at high altitudes, the type of aircraft and its engine, and the duration and intensity of the flight. Atmospheric conditions, such as wind and air pressure, can also play a role.

4. Are contrails harmful to the environment?

According to current research, contrails do not have a significant impact on the environment. However, they can contribute to the warming of the atmosphere by trapping heat released by the aircraft engines. This effect is relatively small compared to other sources of greenhouse gas emissions.

5. Can contrails affect the weather?

There is ongoing research on the potential effects of contrails on weather patterns. Some studies suggest that contrails can contribute to the formation of cirrus clouds, which can impact local weather conditions. However, the overall impact of contrails on weather is still not fully understood.

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