Jet Biofuel Enlisted For Contrail Control

Contrails might be a punch line in the culture these days, thanks to the imaginative folks who have rechristened them “chemtrails” and embroidered them with elaborate theories involving government and corporate misdeed.

But contrails are pretty serious business for a less conspiratorial reason: scientists believe these ice clouds generated by water exhaust gases from aircraft engines could have a real impact on the climate, perhaps by cooling temperatures during the day and warming them at night.

contrails biofuels

Contrails over Lisbon, Portugal (image via NASA/JPL/UCSD/JSC)

That’s where a new phase in an ongoing NASA study comes into play: The space agency recently began doing flights over the Southern California desert in which a DC-8 “flying laboratory” is testing the contrail consequences of using standard JP-8 jet fuel versus a 50-50 blend of JP-8 and a biofuel made from camelina plants.

“We believe this study will improve understanding of contrails formation and quantify potential benefits of renewable alternate fuels in terms of aviation’s impact on the environment,” said Ruben Del Rosario, manager of NASA’s Fixed Wing Project.

In its flights, the DC-8 is soaring to elevations as high as 40,000 feet, trailed all the while by a Falcon HU-25 equipped with “more than a dozen instruments” that can help the researchers understand the composition of the soot and gasses emitted by the DC-8 “and monitor the way exhaust plumes change in composition as they mix with air.” NASA said the Falcon will snuggle up to within 300 feet of the DC-8. It will also look for opportunities, weather and air traffic controllers permitting, to trail commercial aircraft, but in those cases the Falcon will be 10 miles in back.

According to the European Centre for Research and Advanced Training in Scientific Computing (CERFACS), “Contrails are ice clouds that form by condensation of water vapor exhaust from aircraft engines and develop further in the aircraft wake as they are entrained by the airplane trailing vortices.”

So what’s the problem with that? As CERFACS explains:

When contrails spread to form cirrus clouds, they can persist for hours and extend over areas of several square kilometers. These “contrail cirrus,” which artificially increase Earth’s cloudiness and become almost indistinguishable from natural cirrus, are among the most uncertain contributors to the Earth’s radiative forcing. (Radiative forcing is defined as the change of the net radiating flux resulting from changes in the atmospheric composition. A measure of the perturbation of Earth-atmosphere energy budgets, it is widely used as a climate metric).

NASA said its testing program, which began on Feb. 28, would last up to three weeks. A second phase of the flights, dubbed ACCESS – Alternative Fuel Effects on Contrails and Cruise Emissions – is planned for 2014 with “a more extensive set of measurements.”

It might be interesting to see if NASA will by then test a 100 percent biofuel mixture – Canadian researchers pulled off such a flight last fall and found “an important reduction in aerosol emissions (50 percent)” and “a significant reduction in particles (up to 25 percent) and in black carbon emissions (up to 49 percent) compared to conventional fuel.”

Sports columnist, newspaper desk guy, website managing editor, wine-industry PR specialist, freelance writer—Pete Danko’s career in media has covered a lot of terrain. The constant along the way has been a fierce dedication to knowing the story and getting it right. Danko's work has appeared in Wired, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

  • http://twitter.com/ListenToTeacher Mr. Beard

    “thanks to the imaginative folks who have rechristened them “chemtrails” and embroidered them with elaborate theories involving government and corporate misdeed.”

    Nicely put, but you wont be making any friends by putting things into that context.

    Many of those “elaborate” theories as you put it are backed up with evidence and facts.

    Probably best to start articles of this nature with different wording so as not to isolate those groups that spend a lot of time and effort to help their fellow Human Beings…….

  • Angel Hernandez

    Sorry!!! I Know
    whats a Contrail Vs Chemtrail.. You are trying to desaprove whats real
    and whats not real. Chemtrails are real!!! And a real threat to our
    Health… And Yes Contrails are made from ice clouds that form by condensation of water vapor
    exhaust from aircraft engines but diminish within about 4 minutes. And yes Chemtrails form to artificial cirrus
    clouds and persist for hours and extend over large area blocking our sun rays… I never trust NASA and never will. Nasa should make Chemtrails in Mars to see if
    they can produce these cirrus clouds.

    • http://www.facebook.com/john.powell.756 John Powell

      Mars doesn’t have an atmosphere so the production of contrails (condensation trails), or chemtrails if you are less scientific, would be unlikely.
      On the subject of ‘chemtrails’, stop worrying yourself to death!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=714639728 Jorge Enrique

    Geo engineering and climate control; Alluminum sulphate, Barium ferrite and stereate; go for a trip around the world on utube. Look at what everyone is seeing in their skies. Experimenting everyday everywhere? . Who is financing it ? Where do you replenish your tankers? Is Barium hazardous to your health? You bet.

  • Beau Jeste

    CIA and Military Weather Patents

    1338343 – April 27, 1920 – Process And Apparatus For The Production of Intense Artificial Clouds, Fogs, or Mists
    1619183 – March 1, 1927 – Process of Producing Smoke Clouds From Moving Aircraft 1631753 – June 7, 1927 – Electric Heater – Referenced in 3990987
    1665267 – April 10, 1928 – Process of Producing Artificial Fogs
    1892132 – December 27, 1932 – Atomizing Attachment For Airplane Engine Exhausts 1928963 – October 3, 1933 – Electrical System And Method
    1957075 – May 1, 1934 – Airplane Spray Equipment
    2097581 – November 2, 1937 – Electric Stream Generator – Referenced in 3990987 2409201 – October 15, 1946 – Smoke Producing Mixture
    2476171 – July 18, 1945 – Smoke Screen Generator
    2480967 – September 6, 1949 – Aerial Discharge Device
    2550324 – April 24, 1951 – Process For Controlling Weather
    2510867 – October 9, 1951 – Method of Crystal Formation and Precipitation
    2582678 – June 15, 1952 – Material Disseminating Apparatus For Airplanes
    2591988 – April 8, 1952 – Production of TiO2 Pigments – Referenced in 3899144
    2614083 – October 14, 1952 – Metal Chloride Screening Smoke Mixture
    2633455 – March 31, 1953 – Smoke Generator
    2688069 – August 31, 1954 – Steam Generator – Referenced in 3990987
    2721495 – October 25, 1955 – Method And Apparatus For Detecting Minute Crystal Forming Particles Suspended in a Gaseous Atmosphere
    2730402 – January 10, 1956 – Controllable Dispersal Device
    2801322 – July 30, 1957 – Decomposition Chamber for Monopropellant Fuel – Referenced in 3990987
    2881335 – April 7, 1959 – Generation of Electrical Fields
    2908442 – October 13, 1959 – Method For Dispersing Natural Atmospheric Fogs And Clouds
    2986360 – May 30, 1962 – Aerial Insecticide Dusting Device
    2963975 – December 13, 1960 – Cloud Seeding Carbon Dioxide Bullet
    3126155 – March 24, 1964 – Silver Iodide Cloud Seeding Generator – Referenced in 3990987
    3127107 – March 31, 1964 – Generation of Ice-Nucleating Crystals
    3131131 – April 28, 1964 – Electrostatic Mixing in Microbial Conversions
    3174150 – March 16, 1965 – Self-Focusing Antenna System
    3234357 – February 8, 1966 – Electrically Heated Smoke Producing Device
    3274035 – September 20, 1966 – Metallic Composition For Production of Hydroscopic Smoke
    3300721 – January 24, 1967 – Means For Communication Through a Layer of Ionized Gases
    3313487 – April 11, 1967 – Cloud Seeding Apparatus
    3338476 – August 29, 1967 – Heating Device For Use With Aerosol Containers – Referenced in 3990987
    3410489 – November 12, 1968 – Automatically Adjustable Airfoil Spray System With Pump 3429507 – February 25, 1969 – Rainmaker
    3432208 – November 7, 1967 – Fluidized Particle Dispenser
    3441214 – April 29, 1969 – Method And Apparatus For Seeding Clouds
    3445844 – May 20, 1969 – Trapped Electromagnetic Radiation Communications System 3456880 – July 22, 1969 – Method Of Producing Precipitation From The Atmosphere 3518670 June 30, 1970 – Artificial Ion Cloud
    3534906 – October 20, 1970 – Control of Atmospheric Particles
    3545677 – December 8, 1970 – Method of Cloud Seeding
    3564253 – February 16, 1971 – System And Method For Irradiation Of Planet Surface Areas 3587966 – June 28, 1971 – Freezing Nucleation
    3601312 – August 24, 1971 – Methods of Increasing The Likelihood oF Precipatation By The Artificial Introduction Of Sea Water Vapor Into The Atmosphere Winward Of An Air Lift Region
    3608810 – September 28, 1971 – Methods of Treating Atmospheric Conditions
    3608820 – September 20, 1971 – Treatment of Atmospheric Conditions by Intermittent Dispensing of Materials Therein
    3613992 – October 19, 1971 – Weather Modification Method
    3630950 – December 28, 1971 – Combustible Compositions For Generating Aerosols, Particularly Suitable For Cloud Modification And Weather Control And Aerosolization Process
    USRE29142 – This patent is a reissue of patent US3630950 – Combustible compositions for generating aerosols, particularly suitable for cloud modification and weather control and aerosolization process
    3659785 – December 8, 1971 – Weather Modification Utilizing Microencapsulated Material 3666176 – March 3, 1972 – Solar Temperature Inversion Device
    3677840 – July 18, 1972 – Pyrotechnics Comprising Oxide of Silver For Weather Modification Use
    3722183 – March 27, 1973 – Device For Clearing Impurities From The Atmosphere
    3769107 – October 30, 1973 – Pyrotechnic Composition For Generating Lead Based Smoke
    3784099 – January 8, 1974 – Air Pollution Control Method
    3785557 – January 15, 1974 – Cloud Seeding System
    3795626 – March 5, 1974 – Weather Modification Process
    3808595 – April 30, 1974 – Chaff Dispensing System
    3813875 – June 4, 1974 – Rocket Having Barium Release System to Create Ion Clouds In The Upper Atmopsphere
    3835059 – September 10, 1974 – Methods of Generating Ice Nuclei Smoke Particles For Weather Modification And Apparatus Therefore
    3835293 – September 10, 1974 – Electrical Heating Aparatus For Generating Super Heated Vapors – Referenced in 3990987
    3877642 – April 15, 1975 – Freezing Nucleant
    3882393 – May 6, 1975 – Communications System Utilizing Modulation of The Characteristic Polarization of The Ionosphere
    3896993 – July 29, 1975 – Process For Local Modification of Fog And Clouds For Triggering Their Precipitation And For Hindering The Development of Hail Producing Clouds
    3899129 – August 12, 1975 – Apparatus for generating ice nuclei smoke particles for weather modification
    3899144 – August 12, 1975 – Powder contrail generation
    3940059 – February 24, 1976 – Method For Fog Dispersion
    3940060 – February 24, 1976 – Vortex Ring Generator
    3990987 – November 9, 1976 – Smoke generator
    3992628 – November 16, 1976 – Countermeasure system for laser radiation
    3994437 – November 30, 1976 – Broadcast dissemination of trace quantities of biologically active chemicals
    4042196 – August 16, 1977 – Method and apparatus for triggering a substantial change in earth characteristics and measuring earth changes
    RE29,142 – February 22, 1977 – Reissue of: 03630950 – Combustible compositions for generating aerosols, particularly suitable for cloud modification and weather control and aerosolization process
    4035726 – July 12, 1977 – Method of controlling and/or improving high-latitude and other communications or radio wave surveillance systems by partial control of radio wave et al 4096005 – June 20, 1978 – Pyrotechnic Cloud Seeding Composition
    4129252 – December 12, 1978 – Method and apparatus for production of seeding materials 4141274 – February 27, 1979 – Weather modification automatic cartridge dispenser 4167008 – September 4, 1979 – Fluid bed chaff dispenser
    4347284 – August 31, 1982 – White cover sheet material capable of reflecting ultraviolet rays
    4362271 – December 7, 1982 – Procedure for the artificial modification of atmospheric precipitation as well as compounds with a dimethyl sulfoxide base for use in carrying out said procedure
    4402480 – September 6, 1983 – Atmosphere modification satellite
    4412654 – November 1, 1983 – Laminar microjet atomizer and method of aerial spraying of liquids
    4415265 – November 15, 1983 – Method and apparatus for aerosol particle absorption spectroscopy
    4470544 – September 11, 1984 – Method of and Means for weather modification 4475927 – October 9, 1984 – Bipolar Fog Abatement System
    4600147 – July 15, 1986 – Liquid propane generator for cloud seeding apparatus 4633714 – January 6, 1987 – Aerosol particle charge and size analyzer
    4643355 – February 17, 1987 – Method and apparatus for modification of climatic conditions
    4653690 – March 31, 1987 – Method of producing cumulus clouds
    4684063 – August 4, 1987 – Particulates generation and removal
    4686605 – August 11, 1987 – Method and apparatus for altering a region in the earth’s atmosphere, ionosphere, and/or magnetosphere
    4704942 – November 10, 1987 – Charged Aerosol
    4712155 – December 8, 1987 – Method and apparatus for creating an artificial electron cyclotron heating region of plasma
    4744919 – May 17, 1988 – Method of dispersing particulate aerosol tracer
    4766725 – August 30, 1988 – Method of suppressing formation of contrails and solution therefor
    4829838 – May 16, 1989 – Method and apparatus for the measurement of the size of particles entrained in a gas
    4836086 – June 6, 1989 – Apparatus and method for the mixing and diffusion of warm and cold air for dissolving fog
    4873928 – October 17, 1989 – Nuclear-sized explosions without radiation
    4948257 – August 14, 1990 – Laser optical measuring device and method for stabilizing fringe pattern spacing
    48050 – August 14, 1990 – Liquid atomizing a94pparatus for aerial spraying
    4999637 – March 12, 1991 – Creation of artificial ionization clouds above the earth 5003186 – March 26, 1991 – Stratospheric Welsbach seeding for reduction of global warming
    5005355 – April 9, 1991 – Method of suppressing formation of contrails and solution therefor
    5038664 – August 13, 1991 – Method for producing a shell of relativistic particles at an altitude above the earths surface
    5041760 – August 20, 1991 – Method and apparatus for generating and utilizing a compound plasma configuration
    5041834 – August 20, 1991 – Artificial ionospheric mirror composed of a plasma layer which can be tilted
    5056357 – October 15, 1991- Acoustic method for measuring properties of a mobile medium
    5059909 – October 22, 1991 – Determination of particle size and electrical charge
    5104069 – April 14, 1992 – Apparatus and method for ejecting matter from an aircraft 5110502 – May 5, 1992 – Method of suppressing formation of contrails and solution
    therefor
    5156802 – October 20, 1992 – Inspection of fuel particles with acoustics
    5174498 – December 29, 1992 – Cloud Seeding
    5148173 – September 15, 1992 – Millimeter wave screening cloud and method
    5245290 – September 14, 1993 – Device for determining the size and charge of colloidal particles by measuring electroacoustic effect
    5286979 – February 15, 1994 – Process for absorbing ultraviolet radiation using dispersed melanin
    5296910 – March 22, 1994 – Method and apparatus for particle analysis
    5327222 – July 5, 1994 – Displacement information detecting apparatus
    5357865 – October 25, 1994 – Method of cloud seeding
    5360162 – November 1, 1994 – Method and composition for precipitation of atmospheric water
    5383024 – January 17, 1995 – Optical wet steam monitor
    5425413 – June 20, 1995 – Method to hinder the formation and to break-up overhead atmospheric inversions, enhance ground level air circulation and improve urban air quality
    5434667 – July 18, 1995 – Characterization of particles by modulated dynamic light scattering
    5441200 – August 15, 1995 – Tropical cyclone disruption
    5486900 – January 23, 1996 – Measuring device for amount of charge of toner and image forming apparatus having the measuring device
    5556029 – September 17, 1996 – Method of hydrometeor dissipation (clouds)
    5628455 – May 13, 1997 – Method and apparatus for modification of supercooled fog 5631414 – May 20, 1997 – Method and device for remote diagnostics of ocean-atmosphere system state
    5639441 – June 17, 1997 – Methods for fine particle formation
    5762298 – June 9, 1998 – Use of artificial satellites in earth orbits adaptively to modify the effect that solar radiation would otherwise have on earth’s weather
    5912396 – June 15, 1999 – System and method for remediation of selected atmospheric conditions
    5922976 – July 13, 1999 – Method of measuring aerosol particles using automated mobility-classified aerosol detector
    5949001 – September 7, 1999 – Method for aerodynamic particle size analysis
    5984239 – November 16, 1999 – Weather modification by artificial satellite
    6025402 – February 15, 2000 – Chemical composition for effectuating a reduction of visibility obscuration, and a detoxifixation of fumes and chemical fogs in spaces of fire origin
    6030506 – February 29, 2000 – Preparation of independently generated highly reactive chemical species:
    6034073 – Milimeter waves screening cloud and method
    6045089 –
    6056203 – Method and apparatus for modifying supercooled clouds
    6110590 – Synthetically spun silk nanofibers and a process for making the same
    6263744 – Automated mobility classified aerosol detector
    6281972 -methods of distribution
    6315213 – November 13, 2001 – Method of modifying weather
    6382526 – May 7, 2002 – Process and apparatus for the production of nanofibers
    6408704 – June 25, 2002 – Aerodynamic particle size analysis method and apparatus
    6412416 – July 2, 2002 – Propellant-based aerosol generation devices and method
    6520425 – February 18, 2003 – Process and apparatus for the production of nanofibers
    6539812 – April 1, 2003 – System for measuring the flow-rate of a gas by means of ultrasound
    6553849 – April 29, 2003 – Electrodynamic particle size analyzer
    6569393 – May 27, 2003 – Method and device for cleaning the atmosphere