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Article

Beyond Contrail Avoidance: Efficacy of Flight Altitude Changes to Minimise Contrail Climate Forcing

1
Centre for Transport Studies, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Imperial College London, London SW7 2AZ, UK
2
Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt, 82234 Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Aerospace 2020, 7(9), 121; https://doi.org/10.3390/aerospace7090121
Received: 30 July 2020 / Revised: 11 August 2020 / Accepted: 18 August 2020 / Published: 21 August 2020
Contrail cirrus introduce a short-lived but significant climate forcing that could be mitigated by small changes in aircraft cruising altitudes. This paper extends a recent study to evaluate the efficacy of several vertical flight diversion strategies to mitigate contrail climate forcing, and estimates impacts to air traffic management (ATM). We use six one-week periods of flight track data in the airspace above Japan (between May 2012 and March 2013), and simulate contrails using the contrail cirrus prediction model (CoCiP). Previous studies have predominantly optimised a diversion of every contrail-forming flight to minimise its formation or radiative forcing. However, our results show that these strategies produce a suboptimal outcome because most contrails have a short lifetime, and some have a cooling effect. Instead, a strategy that reroutes 15.3% of flights to avoid long-lived warming contrails, while allowing for cooling contrails, reduces the contrail energy forcing (EFcontrail) by 105% [91.8, 125%] with a total fuel penalty of 0.70% [0.66, 0.73%]. A minimum EFtotal strategy (contrails + CO2), diverting 20.1% of flights, reduces the EFcontrail by the same magnitude but also reduces the total fuel consumption by 0.40% [0.31, 0.47%]. For the diversion strategies explored, between 9% and 14% of diversions lead to a loss of separation standards between flights, demonstrating a modest scale of ATM impacts. These results show that small changes in flight altitudes are an opportunity for aviation to significantly and rapidly reduce its effect on the climate. View Full-Text
Keywords: aviation; contrail cirrus; climate forcing; mitigation; air traffic management aviation; contrail cirrus; climate forcing; mitigation; air traffic management
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MDPI and ACS Style

Teoh, R.; Schumann, U.; Stettler, M.E.J. Beyond Contrail Avoidance: Efficacy of Flight Altitude Changes to Minimise Contrail Climate Forcing. Aerospace 2020, 7, 121. https://doi.org/10.3390/aerospace7090121

AMA Style

Teoh R, Schumann U, Stettler MEJ. Beyond Contrail Avoidance: Efficacy of Flight Altitude Changes to Minimise Contrail Climate Forcing. Aerospace. 2020; 7(9):121. https://doi.org/10.3390/aerospace7090121

Chicago/Turabian Style

Teoh, Roger, Ulrich Schumann, and Marc E.J. Stettler. 2020. "Beyond Contrail Avoidance: Efficacy of Flight Altitude Changes to Minimise Contrail Climate Forcing" Aerospace 7, no. 9: 121. https://doi.org/10.3390/aerospace7090121

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