From: Editor, Science Daily
Published July 1, 2011 09:13 AM

Takeoffs and Landings Cause More Precipitation Near Airports, Researchers Find

ScienceDaily (June 30, 2011) — Researchers have found that areas near commercial airports sometimes experience a small but measurable increase in rain and snow when aircraft take off and land under certain atmospheric conditions.

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The new study led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), is part of ongoing research that focuses on so-called hole punch and canal clouds that form when planes fly through certain mid-level clouds, forcing nearby air to rapidly expand and cool. This causes water droplets to freeze to ice and then turn to snow as they fall toward the ground, leaving behind odd-shaped gaps in the clouds.

The research team used satellite images and weather forecasting computer models to examine how often this type of inadvertent cloud seeding may occur within 62 miles (100 kilometers) of six commercial airports: London Heathrow, Frankfurt, Charles De Gaulle (Paris), Seattle-Tacoma, O'Hare (Chicago), and Yellowknife (Northwest Territories, Canada), as well as Byrd Station in Antarctica. They found that, depending on the airport and type of plane, the right atmospheric conditions typically exist up to 6 percent of the time, with somewhat more frequency in colder climates.

The lead author, NCAR scientist Andrew Heymsfield, says this phenomenon likely occurs at numerous other airports, especially in mid- and high-latitude areas during colder months. The key variable is whether there are cloud layers in the vicinity that contain water droplets at temperatures far below freezing, which is a common occurrence.

He adds that more research is needed before scientists can determine whether the precipitation produced by this effect is significant. The inadvertent cloud seeding may increase the need to de-ice planes more often, he adds.

Article continues: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110630142847.htm

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