What’s It All About?
THIS – 87,000 Flights each Day – The Skies over Britain – Aviation and the Environment – Climate change – Mechanisms – Total Effect – Radiative Forcing – Vostock Core Samples – Potential reductions – Reducing travel – Kyoto Protocol – Emissions Trading – References for Understanding the Atmosphere
Don’t forget my other pages, links and comments are one click away at the top right of the page…
This increase in the number of passengers using UK airports is representative of the world as a whole. It almost exactly also represents the annual number of millions of tons of water deposited as ice in our stratosphere. Where once it was SIX MILLION TONS per year (in 1958), it now (in 2008) is THREE HUNDRED MILLION TONS per year of exhaust ICE that finds its way into our stratosphere as a consequence of Man’s aviation activities*. THAT is what is VISIBLE in your sky when you are complaining about it. NOTHING ELSE. It’s a piffling amount compared with the amount of water vapor ALREADY up there!
* That is three hundred million tons of seed ice. When the stratospheric layer the aircraft is passing through is supersaturated, then the trail may grow by a factor of up to ten thousand times.
87,000 Flights each Day
On any given day, more than 87,000 flights are in the skies in the United States. Only one-third are commercial carriers, like American, United or Southwest. On an average day, air traffic controllers handle 28,537 commercial flights (major and regional airlines), 27,178 general aviation flights (private planes), 24,548 air taxi flights (planes for hire), 5,260 military flights and 2,148 air cargo flights (Federal Express, UPS, etc.). At any given moment, roughly 5,000 planes are in the skies above the United States. In one year, controllers handle an average of 64 million takeoffs and landings.
For every one flight you see listed on an airport monitor, two you don’t see show up on air traffic controllers’ screens. It would take approximately 7,300 airport terminal monitors to show all the flights controllers handle in a single day and approximately 460 monitors to show the number of flights being handled at any one time.
The Skies over Britain
Aviation and the Environment
Aviation impacts the environment because aircraft engines emit noise, particulates, gases, and contribute to climate change and global dimming. Despite emission reductions from automobiles and more fuel-efficient and less polluting turbofan and turboprop engines, the rapid growth of air travel in recent years contributes to an increase in total pollution attributable to aviation. In the EU greenhouse gas emissions from aviation increased by 87% between 1990 and 2006.
There is an ongoing debate about possible taxation of air travel and the inclusion of aviation in an emissions trading scheme, with a view to ensuring that the total external costs of aviation are taken into account.
Like all human activities involving combustion, most forms of aviation release carbon dioxide (CO2) into the earth’s atmosphere, very likely contributing to the acceleration of global warming. In addition to the CO2 released by most aircraft in flight through the burning of fuels such as JP-4 and JP-8, Jet-A (turbine aircraft) or Avgas (piston aircraft), the aviation industry also contributes greenhouse gas emissions from ground airport vehicles and those used by passengers and staff to access airports, as well as through emissions generated by the production of energy used in airport buildings, the manufacture of aircraft and the construction of airport infrastructure.
While the principal greenhouse gas emission from powered aircraft in flight is CO2, other emissions may include nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide, (together termed oxides of nitrogen or NOx), water vapour and particulates (soot and sulfate particles), sulfur oxides, carbon monoxide (which bonds with oxygen to become CO2 immediately upon release), incompletely-burned hydrocarbons, tetra-ethyl lead (piston aircraft only), and radicals such as hydroxyl, depending on the type of aircraft in use. The contribution of civil aircraft-in-flight to global CO2 emissions has been estimated at around 2%. However, in the case of high-altitude airliners which frequently fly near or in the stratosphere, non-CO2 altitude-sensitive effects may increase the total impact on anthropogenic (man-made) climate change significantly — this problem is not present for aircraft that routinely operate at lower altitudes well inside the troposphere, such as balloons, airships, helicopters, most light aircraft, and many commuter aircraft.
Subsonic aircraft contribute when aloft to climate change in four ways:
Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
CO2 emissions from aircraft-in-flight are the most significant and best understood element of aviation’s total contribution to climate change. The level and effects of CO2 emissions are currently believed to be broadly the same regardless of altitude (i.e they have the same atmospheric effects as ground based emissions). In 1992, emissions of CO2 from aircraft were estimated at around 2% of all such anthropogenic emissions, though CO2 concentration attributable to aviation in 1992 was around 1% of the total anthropogenic increase, because emissions occurred only in the last 50 years.
Oxides of nitrogen (NOx)
At the high altitudes flown by large jet airliners around the tropopause, emissions of NOx are particularly effective in forming ozone (O3) in the upper troposphere. High altitude (8-13km) NOx emissions result in greater concentrations of O3 than surface NOx emissions, and these in turn have a greater global warming effect. The effect of O3 concentrations are regional and local (as opposed to CO2 emissions, which are global).
NOx emissions also reduce ambient levels of methane, another greenhouse gas, resulting in a climate cooling effect. This effect does not, however, offset the O3 forming effect of NOx emissions. It is now believed that aircraft sulfur and water emissions in the stratosphere tend to deplete O3, partially offsetting the NOx-induced O3 increases. These effects have not been quantified. This problem does not apply to aircraft that fly lower in the troposphere, such as light aircraft or many commuter aircraft.
Water vapor (H2O) Contrails
Aiircraft in flight at high altitudes emit water vapor, a greenhouse gas, which under certain atmospheric conditions forms condensation trails, or contrails. Contrails are visible line clouds that form in cold, humid atmospheres and are thought to have a global warming effect (though one less significant than either CO2 emissions or NOx induced effects). Contrails are extremely rare from lower-altitude aircraft, or from propeller aircraft or rotorcraft.
Cirrus clouds have been observed to develop after the persistent formation of contrails and have been found to have a global warming effect over-and-above that of contrail formation alone. There is a degree of scientific uncertainty over the contribution of contrail and cirrus cloud formation to global warming and attempts to estimate aviation’s overall climate change contribution do not tend to include its effects on cirrus cloud enhancement.
Least significant is the release of soot and sulfate particles. Soot absorbs heat and has a warming effect; sulfate particles reflect radiation and have a small cooling effect. In addition, they can influence the formation and properties of clouds. All aircraft powered by combustion will release some amount of soot.
In attempting to aggregate and quantify these effects the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has estimated that aviation’s total climate impact is some 2-4 times that of its CO2 emissions alone (excluding the potential impact of cirrus cloud enhancement). This is measured as radiative forcing. While there is uncertainty about the exact level of impact of NOx and water vapour, governments have accepted the broad scientific view that they do have an effect. Accordingly, more recent UK government policy statements have stressed the need for aviation to address its total climate change impacts and not simply the impact of CO2.
The IPCC has estimated that aviation is responsible for around 3.5% of anthropogenic climate change, a figure which includes both CO2 and non-CO2 induced effects. The IPCC has produced scenarios estimating what this figure could be in 2050. The central case estimate is that aviation’s contribution could grow to 5% of the total contribution by 2050 if action is not taken to tackle these emissions, though the highest scenario is 15%. Moreover, if other industries achieve significant cuts in their own greenhouse gas emissions, aviation’s share as a proportion of the remaining emissions could also rise. Per passenger kilometre, figures from British Airways suggest carbon dioxide emissions of 0.1kg for large jet airliners (a figure which does not account for the production of other pollutants or condensation trails).
The radiative forcing units are in watts per metre squared. The total positive forcing (on the right) amounts to 0.045 W/m2.
This must be compared with the world average insolation of 1330W/m2. It is 0.34 millionths of it.
Insolation values range from 800 to 950 kWh/(kWp·y) in Norway to up to 2,900 in Australia.
A large volcanic eruption would seriously lower this insolation.
VOSTOCK CORE SAMPLES
This is a plot of CO2 concentration, ambient temperature, CH4 concentration, insolation, running backwards in time for 420,000 years. CO2 can be seen to LAG ambient temperature.
Modern jet aircraft are significantly more fuel efficient (and thus emit less CO2 per unit power) than 30 years ago. Moreover, manufacturers have forecast and are committed to achieving reductions in both CO2 and NOx emissions with each new generation of design of aircraft and engine. The accelerated introduction of more modern aircraft therefore represents a major opportunity to reduce emissions per passenger kilometre flown.
Other opportunities arise from the optimisation of airline timetables, route networks and flight frequencies to increase load factors (minimise the number of empty seats flown), together with the optimisation of airspace. Another possible reduction of the climate-change impact is the limitation of cruise altitude of aircraft.
This would lead to a significant reduction in high-altitude contrails for a marginal trade-off of increased flight time and an estimated 4% increase in CO2 emissions. Drawbacks of this solution include very limited airspace capacity to do this, especially in Europe and North America and increased fuel burn due to jet aircraft being less efficient at lower cruise altitudes. However, the total number of passenger kilometres is growing at a faster rate than manufacturers can reduce emissions, and at present there is no readily available alternative to burning kerosene.
The growth in the aviation sector is therefore likely to continue to generate an increasing volume of greenhouse gas emissions. However some scientists and companies such as GE Aviation and Virgin Fuels are researching biofuel technology for use in jet aircraft. As part of this test Virgin Atlantic Airways flew a Boeing 747 from London Heathrow Airport to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport on 24 February 2008, with one engine burning a combination of coconut oil and babassu oil. Greenpeace’s chief scientist Doug Parr said that the flight was “high-altitude greenwash” and that producing organic oils to make biofuel could lead to deforestation and a large increase in greenhouse gas emissions.
The majority of the world’s aircraft are not large jetliners but smaller piston aircraft, and many are capable of using ethanol as a fuel, with major modifications. While ethanol also releases CO2 during combustion, the plants cultivated to make it draw that same CO2 out of the atmosphere while they are growing, making the fuel closer to climate-change-neutral. The main problems with burning ethanol as a fuel are that it takes more energy to produce than is returned, it displaces food crops and thus raises the price of food and causes soil degradation.
While they are not suitable for long-haul or transoceanic flights, turboprop aircraft used for commuter flights bring two significant benefits: they often burn considerably less fuel per passenger mile, and they typically fly at lower altitudes, well inside the tropopause, where there are no concerns about ozone or contrail production. For even shorter flights, air taxi service using newer, fuel-efficient four- or six-seat light piston aircraft could provide an even lower environmental impact.
An alternative method for reducing the environmental impact of aviation is to constrain demand for air travel. The UK study Predict and Decide – Aviation, climate change and UK policy, notes that a 10 per cent increase in fares generates a 5 to 15 per cent reduction in demand, and recommends that the British government should manage demand rather than provide for it. This would be accomplished via a strategy that presumes “… against the expansion of UK airport capacity” and constrains demand by the use of economic instruments to price air travel less attractively. A study published by the campaign group Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) concludes that by levying £9 billion of additional taxes the annual rate of growth in demand in the UK for air travel would be reduced to 2 per cent. The ninth report of the House of Commons Environmental Audit Select Committee, published in July 2006, recommends that the British government rethinks its airport expansion policy and considers ways, particularly via increased taxation, in which future demand can be managed in line with industry performance in achieving fuel efficiencies, so that emissions are not allowed to increase in absolute terms.
Greenhouse gas emissions from fuel consumption in international aviation, in contrast to those from domestic aviation and from energy use by airports, are not assigned under the first round of the Kyoto Protocol, neither are the non-CO2 climate effects. In place of agreement, Governments agreed to work through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to limit or reduce emissions and to find a solution to the allocation of emissions from international aviation in time for the second round of Kyoto in 2009 in Copenhagen.
As part of that process the ICAO has endorsed the adoption of an open emissions trading system to meet CO2 emissions reduction objectives. Guidelines for the adoption and implementation of a global scheme are currently being developed, and will be presented to the ICAO Assembly in 2007, although the prospects of a comprehensive inter-governmental agreement on the adoption of such a scheme are uncertain.
Within the European Union, however, the European Commission has resolved to incorporate aviation in the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). A new directive has been adopted by the European Parliament in July 2008 and approved by the Council in October 2008. It will enter into force on 1 January 2012.
Well, there you are… ….the most relevant aspect of this report is this:
Aviation is responsible for ONLY 3.5% of anthropic climate change, the existence of which is proven.
References for Understanding the Atmosphere
Battan, Louis J. 1979. Fundamentals of Meteorology. Englewood, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Bohren, C. P., and B. A. Albrecht. 1998. Environmental Science. Earth as a Living Planet. New York: John Wiley and Sons.
Charlson, R. J., J. E. Lovelock, M. O. Andreae, and S. G. Warren. 1987. Oceanic phytoplankton, atmospheric sulfur, cloud albedo and climate. Nature 326:655-61.
Fermi, E. 1956. Thermodynamics. New York: Dover Publications.
Gleick, P. H. 1996. Water Resources In Encyclopedia of Climate and Weather, S. H. Schneider, ed. New York: Oxford University Press.
Goody, R. M., and J. C. G. Walker. 1972 Atmospheres. Englewood Cliffs, NJ.: Prentice-Hall.
Hecht, E. 1996. Physics: Calculus. Pacific Grove, Calif.: Brooks Cole Publishing Co.
Hess, S. L. 1959. Introduction to Theoretical Meteorology. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
Holton, James R. 1979. An Introduction to Dynamic Meteorology. 2nd ed. London: Academic Press Inc.
Lutgens, F. K. and E. J. Tarbuck. 2004. The Atmosphere – An Introduction to Meteorology. Upper Saddle River, NJ.: Pearson Prentice-Hall.
Mason, B. J. 1957. The Physics of Clouds. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
McIlveen, Robin. 1986. Basic Meteorology: A Physical Outline. Berkshire, UK: Van Norstrand Company Ltd.
Penner, J. E., D. H. Lister, D. J. Griggs, D. J. Dokken, and M. McFarland, eds. 1999. Aviation and the Global Atmosphere. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.
Planck, M. 1945. Treatise on Thermodynamics. Translated by A. Ogg. New York: Dover Publications.
Rogers, R. R., and M. K. Yau. 1989. A Short Course on Cloud Physics. 3rd ed. Woburn, Mass.: Butterworth-Heinemann.
Schlesinger, W. H. 1997. Biogeochemistry: An Analysis of Global Change. 2nd ed. San Diego: Academic Press.
U.S. Standard Atmosphere, 1976. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1976.
Wallace, J. M., and P. V. Hobbs. 1977. Atmospheric Science – An Introductory Survey. New York: Academic Press.
Wells, N. 1997. The Atmosphere and Ocean. New York: John Wiley and Sons.
Written by JazzRoc
November 25, 2008 at 9:50 pm
Tagged with 228m, 4m, aerosol, air travel, aluminium, aluminum, arthritis, barium, breathing difficulties, carbon dioxide, carnicom, chem trail, climate change, contrails, emissions trading, environment, exhaust, filaments, foot-and-mouth disease, Gulf war, heavy haze, ice, kyoto protocol, lines in the sky, lung disease, mechanisms, metallic salts, million, morgellons, no more blue skies, not a normal cloud, oily clouds, oxides of nitrogen, particulates, passengers, potential reductions, ptb, recession, reducing travel, rense, september 11, spraying, terminal, tic-tac-toe, total effect, UK airports, unnatural cloud, water, water vapor, webby material, whiteout, wikipedia
Subscribe to comments with RSS.