Case Study for Testing the Validity of NOx-Ozone Algorithmic Climate Change Functions for Optimising Flight Trajectories

P.V. Rao, F. Yin, V. Grewe, Hiroshi Yamashita, Patrick Jöckel, Sigrun Matthes, Mariano Mertens, Christine Frömming

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One possibility to reduce the climate impact of aviation is the avoidance of climate-sensitive regions, which is synonymous with climate-optimised flight planning. Those regions can be identified by algorithmic Climate Change Functions (aCCFs) for nitrogen oxides (NOx), water vapour (H2O) as well as contrail cirrus, which provide a measure of climate effects associated with corresponding emissions. In this study, we evaluate the effectiveness of reducing the aviation-induced climate impact via ozone (O3) formation (resulting from NOx emissions), when solely using O3 aCCFs for the aircraft trajectory optimisation strategy. The effectiveness of such a strategy and the associated potential mitigation of climate effects is explored by using the chemistry–climate model EMAC (ECHAM5/MESSy) with various submodels. A summer and winter day, characterised by a large spatial variability of the O3 aCCFs, are selected. A one-day air traffic simulation is performed in the European airspace on those selected days to obtain both cost-optimised and climate-optimised aircraft trajectories, which more specifically minimised a NOx-induced climate effect of O3 (O3 aCCFs). The air traffic is laterally and vertically re-routed separately to enable an evaluation of the influences of the horizontal and vertical pattern of O3 aCCFs. The resulting aviation NOx emissions are then released in an atmospheric chemistry–climate simulation to simulate the contribution of these NOx emissions to atmospheric O3 and the resulting O3 change. Within this study, we use O3-RF as a proxy for climate impact. The results confirm that the climate-optimised flights lead to lower O3-RF compared to the cost-optimised flights, although the aCCFs cannot reproduce all aspects of the significant impact of the synoptic situation on the transport of emitted NOx. Overall, the climate impact is higher for the selected summer day than for the selected winter day. Lateral re-routing shows a greater potential to reduce climate impact compared to vertical re-routing for the chosen flight altitude. We find that while applying the O3 aCCFs in trajectory optimisation can reduce the climate impact, there are certain discrepancies in the prediction of O3 impact from aviation NOx emissions, as seen for the summer day. Although the O3 aCCFs concept is a rough simplification in estimating the climate impact of a local NOx emission, it enables a reasonable first estimate. Further research is required to better describe the O3 aCCFs allowing an improved estimate in the Average Temperature Response (ATR) of O3 from aviation NOx emissions. A general improvement in the scientific understanding of non-CO2 aviation effects could make climate-optimised flight planning practically feasible
Original languageEnglish
Article number231
Number of pages26
JournalAerospace — Open Access Aeronautics and Astronautics Journal
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • climate impact; aviation
  • NOx-O3 effects
  • meteorology
  • algorithmic climate change functions


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