Student Features

2005 Contrail Count-a-Thon
We're looking for special clouds called contrails. We want students, teachers and parents all over the world to report whether or not they see contrails in the sky on Oct. 13. Earth Science Week -- a special week for learning about the land, air and water of our planet -- is Oct. 9-15.

Wispy white clouds in a blue sky
Image to right: Look for clouds like these in the sky. Credit: NASA

Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) is sponsored by NASA and the National Science Foundation. It is a hands-on science and education program for students in grades K-12. GLOBE students take measurements of the environment and report them over the Internet. Students and scientists around the world then use the data to learn more about the Earth system. Your work could help scientists who want to study how contrails affect the air and climate.

Contrails look like white lines in the sky. They form very high in the air where airplanes fly. An airplane's engine releases small particles and gases called exhaust. Invisible water molecules called water vapor are in the exhaust and in the air around the plane. The air is very cold at this height. So if conditions are right, the water vapor condenses into water drops. The water drops then freeze around small particles from the exhaust, and a contrail cloud forms.

For more information, please visit the GLOBE Earth Science Contrail Count-a-Thon Web site. There you will also find directions on how to send us your contrail counts. Talk to your teachers or parents. They can help you identify the contrails in the sky and report what you see.

View GLOBE site:
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Related Resource
GLOBE Contrail Education
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Cloud Match Game
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Julia Cole, NASA Langley Research Center
Dan Stillman, Institute for Global Environmental Strategies