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How Etihad is working to reduce Contrails

Home Articles How Etihad is working to reduce Contrails

How Etihad is working to reduce Contrails

by Linnea Ahlgren   September 2 2021

In an exclusive interview with Simple Flying earlier this week, the CEO of Etihad Airways, Tony Douglas, shared that his airline is employing artificial intelligence and machine learning to help reduce contrails during long-haul flights. Based on data related to pressure, temperature, and weather patterns, Etihad is adjusting flight paths to limit condensation cloud formation and its detrimental effect on global warming.

Etihad contrail A380
Etihad Airways is working with partners deploying AI to help reduce contrails on long-haul flights. Photo: Getty Images

Why does it matter?

Those line-shaped clouds flowing out behind planes as they traverse the sky are known as condensation trails or ‘contrails’ for short. They are composed of ice particles and are typically formed at cruise altitudes in the upper atmosphere. If humidity is high, contrails can linger for longer in the air and even grow into Cirrus-like clouds.

Persistent contrails pose no immediate threat to public health, contrary to the somewhat resilient chemtrail conspiracy theory. However, research has shown that they are having a significant impact on climate change. Contrails create an often invisible ‘thermal blanket’ in the atmosphere. Just as naturally occurring Cirrus cloud formations, they serve to trap heat rising from the surface of the earth.

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