Have you ever noticed that airplanes leave a white trail when they fly? Have you ever wondered what that is? The condensation trail left behind jet aircrafts is called contrails. They are line-shaped clouds produced by aircraft engine exhaust, typically at aircraft cruise altitudes several miles above the Earth’s surface.
How do contrails form?
- Contrails form when hot humid air from jet exhaust mixes with environmental air of low vapor pressure and low temperature.
- The combination of water vapor in aircraft engine exhaust and the low ambient temperatures that exist at high altitudes allows the formation of the trails.
- The water vapor contained in the jet exhaust condenses and may freeze, and this mixing process forms a cloud very similar to the one your hot breath makes on a cold day.
- Depending on a planes altitude, and the temperature and humidity of the atmosphere, contrails may vary in their thickness, extent and duration.
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