Less air travel may partially contribute to global warming

Editors’ Highlights are summaries of recent articles written by AGU’s journal editors.
Source: Advances AGU

Particles in aircraft exhaust, primarily soot, can contribute to changing the number of concentrations and size of ice crystals in cirrus clouds, which in turn influence the radiation balance in the atmosphere. Lockdown measures during COVID-19 have forced global airlines to reduce flights on a scale never seen before, allowing an unprecedented test of anthropogenic influences on the environment and climate. Combining satellite observation and model simulation, Zhu et al. [2022] examined the effect of decreasing soot emissions from aircraft on large-scale cirrus clouds and found that continued air traffic would result in a relatively small positive global average radiative effect. The team found that using blended biofuels could also result in lower soot emissions, but a rather weak positive radiative effect. These results have important implications for understanding how changes in aircraft emissions can influence cirrus clouds and global climate.

Citation: Zhu, J., Penner, J., Garnier, A., Boucher, O., Gao, M., Song, L. et al. [2022]. The decrease in aviation leads to an increase in the number of ice crystals and a positive radiative effect. Advances AGU3, e2021AV000546. https://doi.org/10.1029/2021AV000546

—Tong Zhu, editor, Advances AGU

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Teresa H. Sadler