Airplane Flights

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I woke up early this morning and was listening to the BBC.  They had a pretty good segment on airplane flights and greenhouse gases.  Man, there is a lot of information to digest on this subject.

They said something like there are 100,000 flights per day currently.  And that 3.5 billion passengers per year currently fly.  That number is nearly 1/2 the population of the planet now.

Obviously jet planes use fuel, which causes warming.  The fuel a flight uses, per person, is quite a bit more than an automobile, considering how much distance a flight covers.

Burning the fuel also cause clouds.  They are addressing that there are so many flights and the flights obviously make contrails, which affects the greenhouse gas problem.  The contrails create clouds and these clouds are high clouds that are complicated.

The high clouds contain warmth for the planet, that has a next warming effect. But these clouds also reflect the sunlight, which has a net cooling effect on the planet.  So the problem is to figure out which is stronger.

They tried to compare the amount of sun reflected from volcanoes, even 9/11, which grounded nearly all aircraft for 72 hours.  There was a study during 9/11, when the flights were grounded, that showed that with no planes in the sky, the nights were cooler and the days were warmer. This gap was over 1 degree, which seems extreme for only 3 days of no airplane flights.

Anyway, it is complicated and, I’m sure, won’t really be addressed until it is too late to correct. I’m pretty sure that the US is going to be contributing way more to the heating of our planet the next four years.  At least if the president elect keeps his campaign promises.   Funny that the rest of the world is intent on addressing this and, currently, we’re dragging our feet.  Go figure.

Contrails are pretty, but maybe not so good for the planet.

Contrails are pretty, but maybe not so good for the planet.

On a happier note, a hunter's trail camera filmed a mountain lion in Shawnee County, where I live. This is the first photoed mountain lion near Topeka. They are very stealthy and shy.

On a happier note, a hunter’s trail camera filmed a mountain lion in Shawnee County, where I live. This is the first photoed mountain lion near Topeka. They are very stealthy and shy.



19 thoughts on “Airplane Flights

  1. Tony

    Steve. Unrelated but on cycling tips I see Gaimon is out to topple Thorfinn-Sassquatch strava KOM’s. LOL referring to your April fools day post

  2. James

    Its a hoax and a Trumper is not even sure what the BBC is. Most certainly another biased left corrupt media outlet. Welcome to the world of no truth. Buy a ticket to the fuck you tour & join the idiocy.

  3. Michael koerschner

    Not many Americans are aware that the USA is the only major country to meet the Kyoto Protocol goal – even though we didn’t sign it! How did that happen? We found a BUNCH of domestic natural gas – which became cheaper per BTU than coal/oil. Market forces drove dramatic CO2 reductions.

    Hoping for more of the same in years to come!

  4. Michelle Roux


    Well done. Most don’t do the research and depend on google to provide them their 2 second information. I work in the energy business (French) and it is true that America is the cleanest and furthest ahead of any country when it comes to energy research. Your problem is over regulation that doesn’t allow energy companies to further develop and institute even more advanced technologies your energy companies, national laboratories and get this (Dept of Defense) have funded. We in Europe are further than you when it comes to embracing nuclear power; although you are the leader in research in that area but again over regulation and your media (who control public sentiment) doesn’t allow you to move forward. So, feel very lucky to live in your nation. We in Europe can only wish we were as lucky.

  5. James

    Get back to me IF we make it through the Trump debacle with our democracy somewhat intact about how “lucky” we are.

  6. James

    Thanks for making my point. HRC vs DJT & lies? Welcome to the world of No Truth. Just make shit up & keep saying & tools actually pay to go watch it.

  7. conrad

    The truth that no one wants to admit is that airplane travel, and a lot of things we do, are not sustainable. Globalization- moving goods across the globe using fossil fuels- is not sustainable. Not even the democrats will admit that. Wind and solar power have their uses but can’t generate the raw power needed to fly an airplane. It took 200 years to exhaust most of our fossil fuels and millennia for them to form so do the math.

  8. Curtlo dork

    We’ve exhausted our fossil fuels? Huh. Didn’t know that. Seems like we still have plenty.

  9. H Luce

    A full fuel load for a 757 is about 10,000 gallons of aviation-grade kerosene, which is mostly iso-octane. A gallon weighs about 8 pounds, so figure about 80,000 pounds of fuel. Iso-octane has 8 carbons, and has a molecular weight of 114g/mole. One pound is 454 g, so each pound of fuel is 4 moles of iso-octane, so that the fuel load of 80,000 pounds is 320,000 moles of iso-octane. Now, if the iso-octane fuel is completely oxidized (burned) in the combustion chamber of the jet engine, 8 moles of CO2 are produced per mole of iso-octane burned, so that’s 8 x 320,000, or 2,560,000 moles of CO2 produced. Each mole of CO2 occupies 22.4 litres of space, so the total volume of CO2 produced is 2.56 million moles x 22.4 litres/mole = 57.3 million litres of CO2. One litre is 1000 cubic centimetres, or a cube ten centimetres on a side. Ten centimetres is about 4 inches, so one litre is a cube 4 inches on a side. One cubic foot has about 27 litres in it, so each fuel load produces a little more than 2 million cubic feet of CO2 gas. That’s about six hours of flight time. You can figure the rest.

    Now, the other product of the combustion is water, about 18 moles per mole of iso-octane, so that’s where the contrails come from – they’re just ice crystals, and the water falls down to earth pretty quick. Not so for CO2, it persists at altitude for up to three years – perhaps more, depending on conditions. So jet travel at altitudes above 25,000 ft is a big contributor to AGW.

  10. chuck martel

    Observing that there is global warming, if such an observation is possible, must postulate that there is some ideal global climate that is changing to an inferior or at least different one. Since the northern hemisphere was covered by extensive continental glaciation as much as a mile thick only 10,000 years ago, at what point in the ensuing time was the climate “normal”? Do those that demand government action on AGW believe that any global climate change is “bad” or just that supposedly produced by human activity? How would the two be differentiated? Is it likely that anyone alive today will experience enough true climate change, should that even be possible, to make note of it without being informed by the media?
    If AGW produces a rise in sea levels on the order projected, centimeters per century, would life on the planet come to an end? Will the people alive today ever know if these projections are correct or not?

  11. conrad

    Take a look around. 20 years ago, light sweet crude gushed out of wells. Now we are injecting chemicals into the ground to force out natural gas. How that is economically feasible or worth sacrificing your water is beyond me. All of you in fracking country: don’t move here when it all goes south.

  12. James

    As long as “life on the planet doesn’t come to an end”, well shits a giggles what are we worried about? Just as long as your’e not 3/4 of the world’s pop where sea rise does make a difference, its all good.

  13. Chapo


    Thanks for the note. Most Americans are pretty stupid and let the media manipulate them. Steve’s a nice guy but he has turned into a sheep like most of them. How do you spell NPR……bah, bah, bah 🙂

  14. nancy

    how about these effects below and who paid to fix the damage? why not included in the cost of energy from oil or coal?

    Other likely changes include more frequent extreme weather events including heat waves, droughts, heavy rainfall with floods and heavy snowfall, desert expansion, not only sea level.

    for us, less food for same population or food price will increase. hope you had a lot of money…

  15. JR

    Wow, a lot of you have been hoodwinked into this climate “changey thingy.” Temperatures in the climate haven’t changed this century despite predictions they’d go up 1-2 degrees Celsius.

    As one astute person noted – what is the “correct” temperature?
    Further, there is no definitive proof that human activities cause changes to the overall environment. Right now it is a theory whose relevance seems to fall as more research is done in this area.

    The 200 year vs millenia to create argument is silly too. That person is neglecting the fact that humans have ALWAYS created technology to serve us and meet our needs/wants. There is no reason to believe that won’t happen again.

    Moreover, as an avid bike rider, I’d like for it to warm a few degrees. 🙂


  16. John Waller

    I just found this and it is great:

    Here are some highlights –

    “A recent study by Andrew Shtulman of Occidental College showed that even students with an advanced science education had a hitch in their mental gait when asked to affirm or deny that humans are descended from sea animals or that Earth goes around the sun. Both truths are counterintuitive. The students, even those who correctly marked “true,” were slower to answer those questions than questions about whether humans are descended from tree-dwelling creatures (also true but easier to grasp) or whether the moon goes around the Earth (also true but intuitive). Shtulman’s research indicates that as we become scientifically literate, we repress our naive beliefs but never eliminate them entirely. They lurk in our brains, chirping at us as we try to make sense of the world.”

    “He found that higher literacy was associated with stronger views—at both ends of the spectrum. Science literacy promoted polarization on climate, not consensus. According to Kahan, that’s because people tend to use scientific knowledge to reinforce beliefs that have already been shaped by their worldview.”

    “For some people, the tribe is more important than the truth; for the best scientists, the truth is more important than the tribe.”

    Hush the voices of your “naive beliefs” for a while and digest the observations of our civilization. Check out the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change:

    All of the statements made are qualified by the level of statistical confidence in them and backed up by peer reviewed (fought and won) data produced continually for years and into the future by the people of the world in the absolute most unbiased group working on the subject. There are mountains of data and it can be hard to navigate. Click on a report and look for a summary for policy makers or dive into the whole report if you like.

    Also, Steve, you should share these sources if you feel so inclined. I have been sharing the IPCC for years and few are aware of it.


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