Skip to content
Cleaner Tech

Delta, MIT Partner to Erase Planet-Warming Contrails From Skies



Photographer: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

The aviation sector’s burning of fossil fuels isn’t the only way it contributes to climate change: Contrails, the white clouds that trail behind airplanes, are known by researchers to trap heat from the Earth’s surface in the atmosphere. They are formed when water vapor from engine exhaust mixes with cold air, and their environmental impact is significant.

On Thursday Delta Air Lines Inc. and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics announced a partnership to discover new ways to eliminate persistent contrails — that is, the roughly 10% of contrails that stay in the sky for longer than usual and have a more pronounced heating effect. The group will use an algorithm developed by MIT that predicts altitudes and locations where contrails are likely to form.