Contrail Altitude Estimation Based on Shadows Detected in Landsat Imagery

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Contrails contribute to global warming by trapping outgoing terrestrial radiation, exerting an immediate warming influence on the climate. The climatic impact of contrails is potentially comparable to that of aviation’s carbon emissions. This underlines the importance of minimizing contrail formation to mitigate the climate effects of aviation, both now and in the future. The evaluation of contrails demands more precise data on the location and altitude where they form. Remote sensing imagery enables the identification of their location. Nevertheless, determining the altitude of the contrail remains problematic, complicating the identification of the source flight. This study introduces a novel method that enables researchers to determine the altitude of a contrail solely using Landsat data by analysing shadows cast by contrails. Through validation against ADS-B data from OpenSky, we demonstrate that such a technique can achieve the accuracy of a few hundreds of meters, which is suitable for incorporation into a climate-optimized routing system. Finally, a ResUNet segmentation model is also presented, which can identify contrails and their shadows in Landsat imagery. These results constitute a step forward for more accurate contrail dataset and models.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2023
Event13th SESAR Innovation Days - Sevilla, Spain
Duration: 27 Nov 202330 Nov 2023
Conference number: 13


Conference13th SESAR Innovation Days


  • Sustainability
  • Contrails
  • Remote Sensing
  • Atmospheric Science
  • OpenSky
  • Aircraft Surveillance Data


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