September's science: shutdown of airlines aided contrail studies. (This Week).
Immediately after four hijacked airliners slammed into New York's World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in southwestern Pennsylvania, the Federal Aviation Administration Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), component of the U.S. Department of Transportation that sets standards for the air-worthiness of all civilian aircraft, inspects and licenses them, and regulates civilian and military air traffic through its air traffic control shut down all U.S. commercial air traffic for 3 days. The unprecedented grounding of airliners enabled airports to step up security measures. At the same time, scientists stepped up to a unique opportunity to study the influence of highflying high·fly·ing
1. Rising to a great height.
2. Unusually extravagant, affected, or ambitious.
Adj. 1. aircraft on Earth's climate.
One way that aircraft may affect climate is through their cloud like contrails, which appear behind jets flying at high altitude. Contrails are made of ice crystals that form within seconds around the small particles present in aircraft exhaust, says David J. Travis, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater The University of Wisconsin–Whitewater (also known as UW-Whitewater) is part of the University of Wisconsin System, located in Whitewater, Wisconsin. It became Wisconsin's second public college on April 21, 1868 when it opened its doors to 39 students taught by nine . Although jet fuel produces water vapor as it burns, more than 90 percent of the ice in long-lived contrails comes from water vapor already present in the air, says Travis.
1. A small bunch or bundle, as of straw, hair, or grass.
a. One that is thin, frail, or slight.
b. A thin or faint streak or fragment, as of smoke or clouds.
3. cirrus clouds are the only ones that form naturally at the high altitudes where jets cruise. These thin clouds slightly cool Earth's surface by blocking some incoming sunlight, but they moderately warm the lower atmosphere by trapping a portion of Earth's outbound infrared radiation. Scientists have suspected that contrails have similar but stronger effects.
Travis and his colleagues looked at the average diurnal diurnal /di·ur·nal/ (di-er´nal) pertaining to or occurring during the daytime, or period of light.
1. Having a 24-hour period or cycle; daily.
2. temperature range (DTR (Data Terminal Ready) An RS-232 signal sent from the computer or terminal to the modem indicating that it is able to accept data. Contrast with DSR.
DTR - Data Terminal Ready )--the difference between the day's high and low temperatures--reported at more than 4,000 weather stations across the continental United States United States territory, including the adjacent territorial waters, located within North America between Canada and Mexico. Also called CONUS. . During the 3-day hiatus of air traffic last September, the average DTR was a little over 1[degree]C wider than normal, even though the average DTRs computed for the 3-day periods immediately before and after that period were below normal.
Furthermore, says Travis, the Pacific Northwest, the Midwest, and the Northeast--areas of the country typically blanketed with aircraft contrails in mid-September--showed the largest changes in diurnal temperature range, mostly from increased daytime high temperatures. This bolsters the argument that contrails can significantly affect climate, Travis contends. He and his colleagues will report their findings next week in Portland, Ore., at a conference of the American Meteorological Society The American Meteorological Society (AMS) promotes the development and dissemination of information and education on the atmospheric and related oceanic and hydrologic sciences and the advancement of their professional applications. .
Travis' results are difficult to argue with, says Patrick Minnis of NASA's Langley Research Center Langley Research Center (LaRC) Oldest of NASA's field centers, LaRC is located in Hampton, Virginia and directly borders Poquoson, Virginia and Langley Air Force Base. LaRC focuses primarily on aeronautical research, though the Lunar Lander was flight-tested at this facility and a in Hampton, Va. He and his colleagues will report their analyses of satellite images of contrails at the same conference. In a series of photos taken Sept. 12, individual cloud trails of high-flying military aircraft stand out clearly in a nearly cloud-free region west of Washington, D.C. In just a few hours, six contrails--each of which started out a few meters wide--spread to cover more than 20,000 square kilometers. The observations of these single contrails along aerial highways normally crowded with dozens of aircraft may help scientists develop better models of how contrails spread and affect climate, says Minnis.