Term Paper: Effects of Air Traveling on Our Environment

Pages: 9 (2763 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  Topic: Transportation  ·  Buy This Paper

Air Travel and the Environment

STRICTLY for the BIRDS?

Effects of Air Traveling on the Environment

Climate change has been largely attributed to fuel emissions (Murray and Durning 2004). Little is known about the environmental effects of Air Travel. Flight uses fuel per passenger and per mile almost as heavily as driving on land. Airplanes emit carbon dioxide and other gases, which have disproportionate but short-lived effects on the planet. Statistics show that north-westerners fly more passenger miles than most other States (Murray and Durning).

Air travel is considered one of the most fuel-guzzling forms of passenger transportation (Murray and Durning 2004). Airlines make up for fuel costs by packing passengers. But per mile, a jet actually burns almost as much energy and emits as much carbon dioxide as an average driven car would. The carbon dioxide and other gases it emits powerfully affect and change the climate because they are released at a high elevation. The effects of carbon dioxide alone double in a short period. Other pollutants disappear in time, but carbon dioxide remains in the air where it traps heat for decades. These short-term effects occur mostly in rich nations in the mid-latitudes of the northern hemisphere (Murray and Durning).

The September attacks on New York caused a recession on air travel. But recent figures reveal that air travel in the U.S. has returned and gone up by 13% over last year's figures (Murray and Durning 2004). Flight is an important part of life, especially among North-Westerners in the Pacific Northwest. Boeing and military flight centers largely account for it. Most air travelers come from Alaska and Hawaii, Washington, Oregon and Idaho. The location of this region in the Pacific Rim also encourages the increase in aircraft production and in passenger volume. Airplanes in the Pacific Northwest cross the runway half a million times every year (Murray and Durning).

There are four other ways by which air travel disturbs the climate (Murray and Durning 2004). It destroys good ozone and produces bad ozone. Military aircraft burns more fuel than civilian aircraft. Airplane contrails may be affecting the climate. and, lastly, airports pollute local air. Ozone in the stratosphere shields the earth from the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays. Most commercial jets fly in the upper troposphere where their pollution creates bad ozone. Military aircraft has grown since 10 years ago from only a fourth its present size. And because military jets must accede to high-performance standards, they produce and emit more pollutants, like nitrogen oxides, which alter the climate. When airlines were grounded following the September 11 attacks, it was observed that the absence of contrails increased the difference between daytime and night time temperatures at a full degree Celsius. It was greater in areas, like Cascadia, where air traffic is heavy. This meant that contrails affect natural temperature differences. Many airports are also big polluters in their cities. Jets emit large amounts of exhaust at taxiing, when idle, at takeoffs and landings. Although new airplanes have improved, fleets still teem with older vehicles. Moreover, more people move to and from airports in their individual vehicles instead of public transports, which would otherwise be energy-efficient. Statistics show that, in 1995 alone, 60% of travelers to the Seattle-Tacoma airport used private cars while 25% used commercial cars. Aircraft emissions have yet to be efficiently regulated. The U.S. Clean Air Act does not provide regulations concerning emissions when aircraft is on the ground (Murray and Durning).

Current research attempts to find out how aircraft can avoid producing and emitting these threads of vapor into the air (Noland 2005). They may look innocent for some time. But when they persist for hours at high altitude, they trap heat in the atmosphere and contribute to global warming. Statistics reveal that air travel has been increasing from 3 to 5% each year and air cargo by 7% each year. Researchers at the Imperial College in London have been combining predictions on contrail formation and how to reduce it. The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council or EPSRC funds the research work, sponsored by the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering and the Department of Physics at Imperial College London (Noland).

The research team already discovered that contrail formation could be minimized by flying lower in the atmosphere (Noland 2005). One way is for jets to fly at a maximum altitude of 31,000 feet in summer when the air is warmer. In winter, they should fly at a maximum of 24,000 feet when the air cools. Varying atmospheric conditions could also have an impact. Aircraft routing strategies could avoid or minimize air masses, which lead to contrail formation, and were the focus of investigations. The production of contrails by aircraft and their effects on the environment are currently confronted by the authorities. Aircraft manufacturers could redesign new ones to be fuel-efficient when flying at 20,000 as current ones at 35,000 feet was believed to eliminate contrails (Noland).

The higher the altitude, the colder the air, the greater are the chances that contrails will form (Noland 2005). This happens when the hot and humid engine air of the jet mixes with the low-pressure and cold surrounding air in the atmosphere. Short-haul flights are more detrimental to the environment than long-haul flights on account of the high fuel volume used for take-off and landing. Present aircraft already measure exterior air conditions. Using appropriate software, which contains the details of the jet exhaust temperature and humidity, can inform the pilot when the aircraft is creating contrails. Research has shown that lower-flying aircraft utilize more fuel in order to push their way through the thick atmosphere. But researchers also found that flying lower would incur less damage than the radiative forcing effect of the contrails. Radiative forcing refers to any modification in the balance between radiation entering the atmosphere and radiation leaving it. Positive radiative forcing tends to warm the surface of the earth, while "negative radiative forcing tends to cool it (Noland)."

The European Commission warned that the continued growth rate of air travel would increase flight emission volume by international aircraft from EU airports to 150% by 2012 (Hilpern 2005). This prediction would offset the reduction requirement of the EU's Kyoto agreement target. The common apprehension has been that faster and bigger aircraft would aggravate the problem. But lecturer on aeronautics Kenji Takeda at the University of Southampton claimed that meeting future environmental needs would now depend on the action taken by engineers. He contended that engineers could respond to these needs by merging aerodynamics and engine technology. Leaders of the European aerospace industry pledged to cut down aircraft emissions and noise levels through their scheme called ACARE 2020. The initiative aimed at a 50% reduction of carbon dioxide emissions and 80% in nitrous oxides as well as a 50% noise reduction by 2020. Initially, the team scored success in noise reduction and improved fuel consumption (Hilpern).

These engineers and researchers have focused their effort most on understanding the effect of white contrails on the environment (Hilpern 2005). These contrails are like clouds, which trap some of the sun's heat instead of releasing them back into space. This contributes to global warming. The other view is that these could send the sun's heat back into space and reduce global warming. Takeda drew his conjectures from the effects of the three-day cessation of flights in the U.S. after September 11, although the results were not conclusive. Corporate director Graham Chisnall of engineering company GKN, however, called attention to the accomplishments of its engineers in the substitution of composite technology for metal in the manufacture of airframes and engines. According to Chisnall, composite structures were stronger yet lighter than metal, which can be molded into various shapes with composites. Aircraft built on them would use less fuel, fly farther and prove more efficient. He said that traditional aeroplanes would suck off hot air off the engines and out into the wings, reducing engine efficiency. GKN's innovative electric de-icing system on the Boeing 787 would be a big boost on "greenness," according to Takeda (Hilpern).

Rolls Royce head of environmental strategy Colin Beesley concurred with Takeda that engineers would be the problem-solvers of the issue while policymakers and scientists worked together (Hilpern 2005). He emphasized that Rolls Royce was a founding partner of the Sustainable Aviation initiative. Chris Goater of the Airport Operations Association commented that the said initiative was a response to the call of the government concerning the future of air transport. These experts did not promise instant solutions but continual improvement. The Sustainable Aviation strategy would serve as a starting point of the process. It would get everyone involved to work together to produce the best solutions. The joint effort also represented the beginning of a new era in technology. Director of business coordination and environmental affairs Philippe Fonta at Airbus commented that the A380 would, indeed, be "the biggest, the quietest, the most innovative and the most fuel-efficient" member of the Airbus family. He said… [END OF PREVIEW]

Air Quality Italy Term Paper


Air Pollution and Effects on Economy Research Paper


Environmental Issues in Air Transport Industry That Relate to the 21st Century Aviation Research Paper


Pulmonary Embolism and Air Travel My Son Term Paper


Environment Will Get You Theme -- Environmental Essay


View 456 other related papers  >>

Cite This Term Paper:

APA Format

Effects of Air Traveling on Our Environment.  (2008, March 19).  Retrieved October 24, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/effects-air-traveling-environment/3669800

MLA Format

"Effects of Air Traveling on Our Environment."  19 March 2008.  Web.  24 October 2019. <https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/effects-air-traveling-environment/3669800>.

Chicago Format

"Effects of Air Traveling on Our Environment."  Essaytown.com.  March 19, 2008.  Accessed October 24, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/effects-air-traveling-environment/3669800.