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The initial composition of jet condensation trails

Physicochemical processes that generate and transform aerosols in jet aircraft plumes are discussed on the basis of theoretical models and recent observations of young contrails in the upper troposphere. The initial evolution of optical depth and ice water content under threshold contrail formation conditions is studied.

Constrained by the measurements, a lower bound is deduced for the number density of ice crystals initially present in contrails. This bound serves as a visibility criterion for young contrails. An analysis of the primary contrail particles (aqueous solution droplets nucleated in situ. emitted insoluble combustion aerosols, and entrained background aerosols) reveals that only soot must be involved as ice forming nuclei if the visibility criterion is to be fulfilled.

Possible activation pathways of the soot aerosols are investigated, including an analysis of their wetting behavior and droplet scavenging and heterogeneous nucleation properties. To support these investigations, results of laboratory experiments concerning contact angles of acidic solution droplets on carbonaceous surfaces and the freezing probability of sulfuric acid tetrahydrate are presented. Assuming that the soot particles acquire a liquid coating, heterogeneous freezing rates and their sensitivity on important parameters are studied. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.


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