According to a recent IPCC report, contrails—the thin, white clouds left behind airplanes in the sky—account for about 35% of aviation’s global warming impact. This makes finding ways to avoid contrails a priority in the mission to limit the harms of climate change.
That’s exactly what the Breakthrough Energy Contrails Team is working on. The team has created software that enables airlines to forecast where high-climate-impact contrails may be most likely to form and plan flight routes that avoid them. We teamed up with American Airlines and Google Research, which has a sophisticated model of its own, to better understand how to avoid warming contrails, and results released today provided an early indication that commercial airlines may be able to effectively avoid contrails and reduce the aviation industry’s overall climate impact.
Marc Shapiro, Director of BE Contrails: “Avoiding contrails might be one of the best ways to limit aviation’s climate impact, and now we have the first real-world demonstration that it’s possible to do so. This study is a great example of what happens when creative, ambitious organizations work together to better understand and solve a tough problem, and we’re grateful for American Airlines and Google’s partnership.”
Read more from Google and American Airlines. Check out the New York Times exclusive coverage of our announcement here.