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"Aircraft can cause airport rain, snow"

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Scientists say airplanes may be contributing to own snow problems
A new study has found that planes flying through certain kinds of clouds can
seed ice crystals and create additional snowfall.
By The Los Angeles Times and The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES - A new study has found that planes flying through certain kinds
of clouds can seed ice crystals and create additional snowfall.

The extra snowfall is associated with odd-looking gashes and gaping holes
seen in certain clouds - "hole-punch" and "canal" clouds - formed by planes
flying through them.

The conditions for this inadvertent weather modification occur about 5
percent of the time - but 10 to 15 percent in winter - said Andrew
Heymsfield of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder,
Colo., lead author of the study in the new issue of the journal Science.

Aircraft take off into the wind, he noted, so if they are generating extra
ice particles upwind of an airport, the result can be snow on the airport.

The team was investigating holes or canals that are sometimes seen drilled
in clouds after an airplane has passed through. Studying six airports,
including Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, they found that increased
snow and rainfall occur where the unusual cloud holes appear, usually within
60 miles of the airport.

Scientists had known passing aircraft can generate ice crystals in clouds,
but until recently they hadn't associated that with the mysterious holes,
Heymsfield said.

Some scientists said they doubted the airplane-induced snow would amount to

Art Rangno, a retired flight scientist at the University of Washington who
was not involved in the study, said the work reminded him of a colleague's
remark during a cloud-seeding experiment: any additional rainfall created
would be "enough to fill a ladybug's teacup."

"I think that could be the case here," Rangno said.

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