Climate impact mitigation potential of European air traffic in a weather situation with strong contrail formation

Benjamin Lührs*, Florian Linke, Sigrun Matthes, Volker Grewe, Feijia Yin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
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Air traffic contributes to anthropogenic global warming by about 5% due to CO2 emissions and non-CO2 effects, which are primarily caused by the emission of NOx and water vapor as well as the formation of contrails. Since-in the long term-the aviation industry is expected to maintain its trend to grow, mitigation measures are required to counteract its negative effects upon the environment. One of the promising operational mitigation measures that has been a subject of the EU project ATM4E is climate-optimized flight planning by considering algorithmic climate change functions that allow for the quantification of aviation-induced climate impact based on the emission’s location and time. Here, we describe the methodology developed for the use of algorithmic climate change functions in trajectory optimization and present the results of its application to the planning of about 13,000 intra-European flights on one specific day with strong contrail formation over Europe. The optimization problem is formulated as bi-objective continuous optimal control problem with climate impact and fuel burn being the two objectives. Results on an individual flight basis indicate that there are three major classes of different routes that are characterized by different shapes of the corresponding Pareto fronts representing the relationship between climate impact reduction and fuel burn increase. On average, for the investigated weather situation and traffic scenario, a climate impact reduction in the order of 50% can be achieved by accepting 0.75% of additional fuel burn. Higher mitigation gains would only be available at much higher fuel penalties, e.g., a climate impact reduction of 76% associated with a fuel penalty of 12.8%. However, these solutions represent much less efficient climate impact mitigation options.

Original languageEnglish
Article number50
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Air traffic management
  • Climate impact reduction
  • Eco-efficient trajectories
  • Optimal control

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