Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Let's have a little atmosphere

A friend linked me to a visually interesting news snippet on the BBC, featuring striking images of drifting and persisting aircraft contrails, adding to cloud cover eastward of the coast of the UK:

Unfortunately, one of the things about the BBC news website is that really bugs me is the complete absence of onwards links or information.  In this case it wasn't too hard to find the right paper, but I'm more used to reading articles which anchor a web of information leading to as much detail as you could wish for, and again and again with the BBC news site I find myself rather uncomfortably brought short.

Getting back to the research, 
"A single aircraft operating in conditions favorable for persistent contrail formation appears to exert a contrail-induced radiative forcing some 5000 times greater (in W m−2 km−1) than recent estimates of the average persistent contrail radiative forcing from the entire civil aviation fleet." Abstract of paper

While I don't particularly feel like dissecting this and other effects of high-altitude flights right now, the piece put me in mind of an interesting article I read the other day over on Cocktail Party Physics, on the effects of space shuttle exhaust on ionisation of the atmosphere, an in turn on radio communications.

It's another example of the fine work done by the blog's contributors, starting from an anecdote, exploring around the topic, explaining the science clearly and bringing it all together in a memorable way, without skimping on detail.  I love their work, which always offers you an entertaining read while casually filling your brain the kind of quirky knowledge that might come in handy at cocktail parties. 

I highly recommend you go and explore the archives (who doesn't love a science blog that has a 'zombies' category?) where you'll certainly find something interesting to while your time away, or subscribe to it and just wait for the posts to roll in.

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