Articles | Volume 3, issue 4
19 Aug 2010
 | 19 Aug 2010

An automatic contrail tracking algorithm

M. Vazquez-Navarro, H. Mannstein, and B. Mayer

Abstract. A method designed to track the life cycle of contrail-cirrus using satellite data with high temporal and spatial resolution, from its formation to the final dissolution of the aviation-induced cirrus cloud is presented. The method follows the evolution of contrails from their linear stage until they are undistinguishable from natural cirrus clouds. Therefore, the study of the effect of aircraft-induced clouds in the atmosphere is no longer restricted to linear contrails and can include contrail-cirrus. The method takes advantage of the high spatial resolution of polar orbiting satellites and the high temporal resolution of geostationary satellites to identify the pixels that belong to an aviation induced cloud. The high spatial resolution data of the MODIS sensor is used for contrail detection, and the high temporal resolution of the SEVIRI sensor in the Rapid Scan mode is used for contrail tracking. An example is included in which the method is applied to the study of a long lived contrail over the bay of Biscay.