Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Department of Engineering Physics

First Advisor

Michael K. Walters, PhD


Accurate forecasts of contrail occurrence are essential to military aircrews. Although classical forecast methods have been reasonably successful predicting contrails, there is need for improvement at low ambient relative humidity. This thesis examines the performance of the Hanson method, which was developed to provide better contrail forecasts under drier atmospheric conditions. As a secondary objective, the forecast methods of Schumann and Hanson are compared to the algorithm currently in use by the Air Force Global Weather Central. Data used to validate the algorithms were collected at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH and Edwards AFB, CA. Theoretical contrail forecasts were made for each observation, using the flight level pressure, ambient temperature, and relative humidity. Comparisons were then made between the forecast and actual observation of contrail conditions. Forecast and occurrence data were then statistically analyzed to gauge each method's performance. All methods detected roughly 75 percent of observed contrails under moist atmospheric conditions. However, the Hanson method's performance decreased when drier atmospheric observations were tested. Schumann's method performed as well as the AFGWC algorithm under all atmospheric conditions. Based on this research the Hanson method is not recommended for operational use.

AFIT Designator


DTIC Accession Number


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