Northern Hemisphere contrail properties derived from Terra and Aqua MODIS data for 2006 and 2012
Linear contrail coverage, optical property, and radiative forcing data over the Northern Hemisphere (NH) are derived from a year (2012) of Terra and Aqua Moderate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) imagery and compared with previously published 2006 results (Duda et al., 2013; Bedka et al., 2013; Spangenberg et al., 2013) using a consistent retrieval methodology. Differences in the observed Terra-minus-Aqua screened contrail coverage and patterns in the 2012 annual-mean air traffic estimated with respect to satellite overpass time suggest that most contrails detected by the contrail detection algorithm (CDA) form approximately 2 h before overpass time. The 2012 screened NH contrail coverage (Mask B) shows a relative 3 % increase compared to 2006 data for Terra and increases by almost 7 % for Aqua, although the differences are not expected to be statistically significant. A new post-processing algorithm added to the contrail mask processing estimated that the total contrail cirrus coverage visible in the MODIS imagery may be 3 to 4 times larger than the linear contrail coverage detected by the CDA. This estimate is similar in magnitude to the spreading factor estimated by Minnis et al. (2013). Contrail property retrievals of the 2012 data indicate that both contrail optical depth and contrail effective diameter decreased approximately 10 % between 2006 and 2012. The decreases may be attributed to better background cloudiness characterization, changes in the waypoint screening, or changes in contrail temperature. The total mean contrail radiative forcings (TCRFs) for all 2012 Terra observations were −6.3, 14.3, and 8.0 mW m−2 for the shortwave (SWCRF), longwave (LWCRF), and net forcings, respectively. These values are approximately 20 % less than the corresponding 2006 Terra estimates. The decline in TCRF results from the decrease in normalized CRF, partially offset by the 3 % increase in overall contrail coverage in 2012. The TCRFs for 2012 Aqua are similar, −6.4, 15.5, and 9.0 mW m−2 for shortwave, longwave, and net radiative forcing. The strong correlation between the relative changes in both total SWCRF and LWCRF between 2006 and 2012 and the corresponding relative changes in screened contrail coverage over each air traffic region suggests that regional changes in TCRF from year to year are dominated by year-to-year changes in contrail coverage over each area.