IATA urges for deeper understanding of contrails

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) calls for urgent action to understand contrails' formation and climate impact. Enhanced data collection and collaboration are essential for effective mitigation strategies, says IATA. 


According to IATA, a better understanding of aviation contrails and their climate impact is necessary. In its report, titled ‘Aviation Contrails Climate Effect: Tackling Uncertainties & Enabling Solutions’, IATA emphasizes the need for increased collaboration between research, technological innovation, and policy frameworks to address non-CO2 emissions from aviation through more comprehensive atmospheric data. 

Contrail science is complex, with significant gaps in understanding how contrails form, persist, and affect the climate. The lack of high-resolution, real-time data on atmospheric conditions hampers precise contrail forecasting. According to IATA's Director General, Willie Walsh, more trials, data collection, and improved climate models are needed to reduce uncertainties and avoid adverse climate impacts. 

Prioritizing CO2 emission reductions 

The report recommends prioritizing CO2 emission reductions over contrail mitigation until 2030, while continuing to enhance scientific research and sensor technology on commercial aircraft. Mid-term actions include establishing data transmission standards and encouraging meteorological observations. By 2050, continuous data provision and reliable models are expected to offer a deeper understanding of non-CO2 effects and extended mitigation measures. 

Aviation's climate impact extends beyond CO2 emissions, with contrails and nitrogen oxides contributing to global warming. Persistent contrails can transform into cirrus clouds, which have a warming effect by trapping outgoing heat. Despite extensive studies, predicting individual contrail formation remains challenging.