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Keywords:

  • contrails;
  • contrail cirrus;
  • clouds;
  • optical depth

Abstract

[1] The properties of contrail cirrus clouds are retrieved through analysis of Terra and Aqua Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer data for 21 cases of spreading linear contrails. For these cases, contrail cirrus enhanced the linear contrail coverage by factors of 2.4–7.6 depending on the contrail mask sensitivity. In dense air traffic areas, linear contrail detection sensitivity is apparently reduced when older contrails overlap and thus is likely diminished during the afternoon. The mean optical depths and effective particle sizes of the contrail cirrus were 2–3 times and 20% greater, respectively, than the corresponding values retrieved for the adjacent linear contrails. When contrails form below, in, or above existing cirrus clouds, the column cloud optical depth is increased and particle size is decreased. Thus, even without increased cirrus coverage, contrails will affect the radiation balance. These results should be valuable for refining model characterizations of contrail cirrus needed to fully assess the climate impacts of contrails.