Estimation of 2006 Northern Hemisphere contrail coverage using MODIS data

Duda, D., P. Minnis, K. V. Khlopenkov, T. L. Chee, and R. Boeke (2013), Estimation of 2006 Northern Hemisphere contrail coverage using MODIS data, Geophys. Res. Lett., 40, 1-6, doi:10.1002/grl.50097.

A modified automated contrail detection algorithm (CDA) using five infrared channels available from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectrometer onboard the Aqua satellite is used to determine linear contrail coverage over the Northern Hemisphere during 2006. Commercial aircraft flight data are employed to filter false contrail detections by the CDA. The Northern Hemisphere annual mean linear contrail coverage ranges from 0.07% to 0.40% for three different CDA sensitivities. Based on visual analyses, the medium sensitivity CDA provides the best estimate of linear contrail coverage, which averages 0.13%. If scaled to the Southern Hemisphere, the global mean coverage would be 0.07%. Coverage is greatest during winter and least during the summer with maximum coverage over the North Atlantic. Less coverage is observed over heavy European and American traffic areas, likely as a result of difficulties in detecting linear contrails that overlap with each other and with older contrail cirrus. These results are valuable for evaluating the representation of contrails and contrail cirrus within global climate models and for retrieving contrail optical properties and radiative forcing.

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Radiation Science Program (RSP)