Last updated on April 17, 2014 at 21:23 EDT
Airplane Contrails Over the Baltic Sea
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Airplane Contrails Over the Baltic Sea

October 24, 2008
When the hot, humid air from a jet engine mixes with colder, drier air in the surrounding environment, condensation trails, otherwise known as "contrails", streak the sky. If the air through which the airplane is flying is already close to being saturated with water vapor, the condensation trail will last longer than it will if the air is dry. A contrail that lingers can spread out into a layer of thin, wispy cirrus clouds.

When this image from the MODIS on the Terra satellite was captured on September 25, 2008, scores of contrails streaked the sky over the Baltic Sea. Both mingled contrails and individual tracks are visible over the water. Note that not all the clouds in the region are necessarily contrails.

There are several countries visible. On the left side of the image is Sweden. At the top is Finland. On the right is Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.