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This photograph shows many contrails in the sky near Sutherland, NE (November 2004).
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of Susan Gallagher

Contrails

The white streaks you see coming off airplanes are called contrails. That is short for “condensation trail.” Contrails are actually clouds made by airplanes.

An airplane's exhaust has some water vapor in it, just like the air. Sometimes when the exhaust mixes with the air, it has so much water vapor that the air can't hold it all. The water vapor then turns into clouds.

There are three types of contrails: short-lived, persistent non-spreading, and persistent spreading.

Last modified May 5, 2008 by Becca Hatheway.

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