An Observational Constraint on Aviation-Induced Cirrus From the COVID-19-Induced Flight Disruption




Digby, Ruth A.R.
Gillett, Nathan P.
Monahan, Adam H.
Cole, Jason N.S.

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Geophysical Research Letters


Global aviation dropped precipitously during the Covid-19 pandemic, providing an unprecedented opportunity to study aviation-induced cirrus (AIC). AIC is believed to be responsible for over half of aviation-related radiative forcing, but until now, its radiative impact has only been estimated from simulations. Here, we show that satellite observations of cirrus cloud do not exhibit a detectable global response to the dramatic aviation reductions of spring 2020. These results indicate that previous model-based estimates may overestimate AIC. In addition, we find no significant response of diurnal surface air temperature range to the 2020 aviation changes, reinforcing the findings of previous studies. Though aviation influences the climate through multiple pathways, our analysis suggests that its warming effect from cirrus changes may be smaller than previously estimated.



COVID-19, aviation, cirrus, diurnal temperature range


Digby, R. A. R., Gillett, N. P., Monahan, A. H., & Cole, J. N. S. (2021). An observational constraint on aviation-induced cirrus from the COVID-19-induced flight disruption. Geophysical Research Letters, 48(20), e2021GL095882.