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Airlines are finally getting serious about contrails. What are they?

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What are those puffy white plumes that drag fighter jets high into the sky? They’re called contrails, and scientists have long said they contribute to climate change.

Now some major airlines are getting on board. Carries like American, Southwest, United, Alaska and Virgin Atlantic, and tech companies like Google are working with the Rocky Mountain Institute to find out which of these contrails are bad for the environment and what they can do about it.

“Air travel has an impact on global warming nearly twice that we previously thought,” said Andrew Chen, an aviation specialist at the Rocky Mountain Institute. The Dallas Morning News. “The most interesting dynamic is that the airlines are not shying away from contrails.”

Related: ‘The fumes are incredibly bad:’ Residents complain about Kyle Jenner’s private jet

What are Aircraft Contrails?

Conspiracies abound about how the lines of clouds that fighter jets follow are “chemtrails” released by the government in a secret program to add toxic chemicals to the atmosphere.

But scientists say these clouds are actually water vapor trails, or condensation trails (contrails for short), caused by aircraft engines. The hot, moist exhaust fumes mix with the colder atmosphere, creating a cloud similar to what you see when you breathe on a cold day.

Climate scientists believe that contrails can trap heat in the atmosphere and contribute to global warming.

Carbon emissions from jet aircraft have long been the target of environmentalists, leading many airlines to modify their aircraft to use alternative energy. But the industry is now also taking contrail pollution seriously.

“The science around contrails has become clearer in recent years,” said Jill Blickstein, American Airlines vice president of sustainability. DMN. “For example, we’ve known for some time that some contrails that form in the morning can have a cooling effect, and that those that form at night tend to warm up earlier. But we didn’t have a good idea of ​​the net impact of all of them. That warming effect has become more apparent recently.”

Not all contrails have the same impact. The worst seems to happen at night when the Earth is cooler, but the contrails prevent the heat from escaping.

The good news is that airlines can avoid making contrails, but that may require changing flight patterns and burning more fuel, which creates more carbon dioxide.

To read more about this, continue The Dallas Morning News.

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