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Formation and Spread of Aircraft-Induced Holes in Clouds

Heymsfield, A., G. Thompson, H. Morrison, A. Bansemer, R. M. Rasmussen, P. Minnis, Z. Wang, and D. Zhang (2011), Formation and Spread of Aircraft-Induced Holes in Clouds, Science, 333, 77-81, doi:10.1126/science.1202851.

Hole-punch and canal clouds have been observed for more than 50 years, but the mechanisms of formation, development, duration, and thus the extent of their effect have largely been ignored. The holes have been associated with inadvertent seeding of clouds with ice particles generated by aircraft, produced through spontaneous freezing of cloud droplets in air cooled as it flows around aircraft propeller tips or over jet aircraft wings. Model simulations indicate that the growth of the ice particles can induce vertical motions with a duration of 1 hour or more, a process that expands the holes and canals in clouds. Global effects are minimal, but regionally near major airports, additional precipitation can be induced.

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Applied Sciences Program (ASP)
Radiation Science Program (RSP)