Poetry Friday: Contrails


Contrails don’t give me hope in a time of climate crisis. They play a significant role in aviation-related global warming by creating clouds that trap heat on earth. But the fact that scientists are studying them does give me hope. The sudden, dramatic drop in airplane traffic in 2020 proved to researchers at MIT that their mapping of contrails was accurate. 

Researchers at the Yale School of the Environment remind us that the ONLY way to shut down global warming is to curb CO2 emissions. 

“But if the world wants a big short-term contribution from aircraft to keep us below some specific temperature target, such as 1.5 degrees C, then action on contrails can provide it.”

 Researchers at MIT are

“working with major airlines to forecast regions in the atmosphere where contrails may form, and to reroute planes around these regions to minimize contrail production.

Steven Barrett, professor and associate head of MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. “There’s an unusual opportunity to halve aviation’s climate impact by eliminating most of the contrails produced today.”

“Most measures to make aviation sustainable take a long time,” Barrett says. “(Contrail avoidance) could be accomplished in a few years, because it requires small changes to how aircraft are flown, with existing airplanes and observational technology. It’s a near-term way of reducing aviation’s warming by about half.” “

Now THAT’S hopeful. Let’s go, airline industry. The ball’s in your court.

This poem was written using The Thing Is by Ellen Bass as a mentor text. All of my poems from this week can be found here.

Janice has this week’s Poetry Friday roundup at Salt City Verse.

20 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: Contrails”

  1. So informative, Mary Lee. Thank you. And I love your nod to William Carlos Williams in your poem. The next time I admire a beautiful pink morning I will stop to consider the message behind it.


  2. Wow, I never knew. Thanks for the education and sharing the research. I love the stance you took at the end. Yes, indeed, they’ve got to go. These are other natural things that are full of kisses, glorious gifts, beautiful and delicious. Thank you, Mary Lee.


  3. This is what I need. I need a little hope to keep me going. Sometimes, it’s just hard to keep taking in all the bad news. Those echoes of a past poem are wonderful recycling!


  4. This one really hits the heart, Mary Lee, and it has me thinking about all of the other “beautiful” things one might write this about. I once saw a documentary where it said that road names in developments come from “the things they destroyed to build the development” (Bird Song Lane, Creekside, Fox Run…) This “The thing is” bookended with “This is just to say” and “Forgive me” works terrifically. And tragically. xo


  5. Thank you the mentor text. It is exactly what I need for the revision in my WIP. I also loved the incorporation of “this is just to say” and “forgive me”.


  6. Fingers crossed for the airline industry to take this seriously and make a change. Your poems are important, Mary Lee. Thank you. 🙂


  7. I did know about the contrail pollution but am glad there is some way to change it, hoping! Remember that lovely sky in 2020 & also after 9/11? Although scary then, the sky changed for a while. Thanks, Mary Lee.


  8. Oh, wow… I did know they were man-made, but it didn’t occur to me that they were indicative of cloudlessness – and in a state with so little rain, that’s kinda something I should know. 😞 Boo.


  9. I think of this a lot when I see the sky criss-crossed. It’s important to remind people that the convenience of flying has consequences. The last two lines of your poem are true and I’m glad there are researchers trying to address it.


  10. This worked out perfecty, and I appreciate all the aviation industry research you did here…but how did you get started on this? Did I not get to this essay yet? : ) Pardon my lateness. I just can’t get ahead here!


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