Articles | Volume 6, issue 12
Research article
20 Dec 2013
Research article |  | 20 Dec 2013

Contrail study with ground-based cameras

U. Schumann, R. Hempel, H. Flentje, M. Garhammer, K. Graf, S. Kox, H. Lösslein, and B. Mayer

Abstract. Photogrammetric methods and analysis results for contrails observed with wide-angle cameras are described. Four cameras of two different types (view angle < 90° or whole-sky imager) at the ground at various positions are used to track contrails and to derive their altitude, width, and horizontal speed. Camera models for both types are described to derive the observation angles for given image coordinates and their inverse. The models are calibrated with sightings of the Sun, the Moon and a few bright stars. The methods are applied and tested in a case study. Four persistent contrails crossing each other, together with a short-lived one, are observed with the cameras. Vertical and horizontal positions of the contrails are determined from the camera images to an accuracy of better than 230 m and horizontal speed to 0.2 m s−1. With this information, the aircraft causing the contrails are identified by comparison to traffic waypoint data. The observations are compared with synthetic camera pictures of contrails simulated with the contrail prediction model CoCiP, a Lagrangian model using air traffic movement data and numerical weather prediction (NWP) data as input. The results provide tests for the NWP and contrail models. The cameras show spreading and thickening contrails, suggesting ice-supersaturation in the ambient air. The ice-supersaturated layer is found thicker and more humid in this case than predicted by the NWP model used. The simulated and observed contrail positions agree up to differences caused by uncertain wind data. The contrail widths, which depend on wake vortex spreading, ambient shear and turbulence, were partly wider than simulated.