Earlier estimates of global contrail frequency are based on empirically tuned models of contrail formation using a combination of numerical forecast model analyses, criteria for contrail formation, and simplified distributions of aircraft fuel usage (Sausen et al., 1998). These models of contrail generation were normalized to satellite-based estimates of linear contrail frequency taken over the North Atlantic and central Europe. However, recent estimates of contrail frequency over these areas from an objective contrail detection algorithm are significantly smaller. Additionally, a comparison of the empirical contrail frequency over the continental US (CONUS) of Sausen et al. with contrail coverage analyses of Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) data show they compare well in overall magnitude of coverage, but differ in spatial distribution.
In this study, we present a new estimate of contrail coverage over the CONUS by using hourly meteorological analyses from the Rapid Update Cycle-2 (RUC-2) numerical weather prediction model with flight track data from Flight Explorer. This estimate will be compared with the earlier work by Sausen et al., and with contrail frequency estimates from an empirical contrail detection algorithm.