Five major airlines today announced that they have joined forces with academic, technology, and nonprofit partners to launch the Contrail Impact Task Force. The cross-sectoral task force was established to explore the formation and mitigation of persistent condensation trails, or “contrails,” that affect the climate impact of flight. The task force was created by Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines®, United Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Airbus, Boeing, Breakthrough Energy, Flightkeys, Google Research, Imperial College London, and nonprofit RMI.
Contrails form when high-heat exhaust from aircraft meets cold, humid air in the lower atmosphere during flight. Depending on atmospheric conditions, these formations can last for hours and evolve into persistent contrail-cirrus clouds. There is an emerging scientific consensus that some of these thin lines of cloud contribute to the total climate impact of flight by trapping heat that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere. The precise magnitude of impact remains uncertain, but sector leaders are nonetheless taking the first steps to define the challenge and explore solutions.
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