The climate impact of COVID-19-induced contrail changes.

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Date: June 18, 2021
From: Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics(Vol. 21, Issue 12)
Publisher: Copernicus GmbH
Document Type: Brief article
Length: 312 words

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Abstract :

The COVID-19 pandemic caused significant economic disruption in 2020 and severely impacted air traffic. We use a state-of-the-art Earth system model and ensembles of tightly constrained simulations to evaluate the effect of the reductions in aviation traffic on contrail radiative forcing and climate in 2020. In the absence of any COVID-19-pandemic-caused reductions, the model simulates a contrail effective radiative forcing (ERF) of 62 ± 59 mW m.sup.-2 (2 standard deviations). The contrail ERF has complex spatial and seasonal patterns that combine the offsetting effect of shortwave (solar) cooling and longwave (infrared) heating from contrails and contrail cirrus. Cooling is larger in June-August due to the preponderance of aviation in the Northern Hemisphere, while warming occurs throughout the year. The spatial and seasonal forcing variations also map onto surface temperature variations. The net land surface temperature change due to contrails in a normal year is estimated at 0.13 ± 0.04 K (2 standard deviations), with some regions warming as much as 0.7 K. The effect of COVID-19 reductions in flight traffic decreased contrails. The unique timing of such reductions, which were maximum in Northern Hemisphere spring and summer when the largest contrail cooling occurs, means that cooling due to fewer contrails in boreal spring and fall was offset by warming due to fewer contrails in boreal summer to give no significant annual averaged ERF from contrail changes in 2020. Despite no net significant global ERF, because of the spatial and seasonal timing of contrail ERF, some land regions would have cooled slightly (minimum -0.2 K) but significantly from contrail changes in 2020. The implications for future climate impacts of contrails are discussed.

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A665625408