Brief Communications

Nature 418, 601 (8 August 2002) | doi:10.1038/418601a

Climatology: Contrails reduce daily temperature range

David J. Travis1, Andrew M. Carleton2 & Ryan G. Lauritsen1

The potential of condensation trails (contrails) from jet aircraft to affect regional-scale surface temperatures has been debated for years1, 2, 3, but was difficult to verify until an opportunity arose as a result of the three-day grounding of all commercial aircraft in the United States in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001. Here we show that there was an anomalous increase in the average diurnal temperature range (that is, the difference between the daytime maximum and night-time minimum temperatures) for the period 11–14 September 2001. Because persisting contrails can reduce the transfer of both incoming solar and outgoing infrared radiation4, 5 and so reduce the daily temperature range, we attribute at least a portion of this anomaly to the absence of contrails over this period.

  1. Department of Geography and Geology, University of Wisconsin–Whitewater, Whitewater, Wisconsin 53190, USA
  2. Department of Geography, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania 16801, USA

Correspondence to: David J. Travis1 e-mail: Email: