There are Three Types of Contrails

At high levels in the sky, if there is enough moisture in the air, a contrail will form behind an airplane. There are three types of contrails: short-lived, persistent non-spreading, and persistent spreading.

Short-lived Contrails:

If the air is a little bit moist, a contrail will form immediately behind the airplane and make a bright white line that lasts for a short amount of time.

Image courtesy of Carol Clark

Persistent Non-Spreading Contrails:

If the air is very moist, a contrail will form behind an airplane and stay in the sky for long time. This type of contrail will stay in the sky even after the airplane has flown away!

Image courtesy of Kirsten Meymaris

Persistent Spreading Contrails:

These contrails form when a persistent contrail spreads out. They grow wider and fuzzier and sometimes contrails they become human-made clouds!

Image courtesy of Peggy LeMone

Back to Contrails


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Last modified June 6, 2008 by Becca Hatheway.

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