Stanford University atmospheric scientist Mark Jacobson writes in the journal Climate Change that the standard intercontinental cruising altitudes across the Arctic put aircraft in a very stable high-latitude region of the stratosphere, where black carbon exhaust gets trapped for long periods of time.
The carbon absorbs and holds solar energy, amplifying the effects of climate change in an Arctic environment already experiencing the world’s greatest warming.
Jacobson calculates that rerouting jetliners below the Arctic Circle would not increase fuel costs significantly.
But he says it would place the exhaust in regions where greater atmospheric mixing and precipitation would dissipate the black carbon much more quickly.
Jacobson’s study concludes that the $99 million a year in additional fuel and operational costs of the lower-latitude rerouting would be far less than the price of coping with climate change around the world.