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Google is helping pilots route flights to create fewer contrails, which is better for the climate

A plane flying with contrails behind it
A plane flying over Barcelona airport in March 2023. | Photo by Urbanandsport/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Google has been working with American Airlines and Bill Gates’ climate investment fund, Breakthrough Energy, to chart more sustainable flight routes. The aim is to help pilots limit a flight’s impact on the climate by avoiding routes that create contrails, those white streaks in the sky that planes sometimes leave behind.

Contrails are a big problem for the planet because they trap heat, accounting for about 35 percent of aviation’s global warming impact. Using satellite imagery and AI, they developed a way to forecast where contrails are most likely to form. That could give pilots a chance to avoid them and minimize aviation’s environmental footprint in the process.

Contrary to what conspiracy theorists say, the streaks behind are not…

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