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Albuquerque, New Mexico weather, contrails and distrails: Jan. 9-15

Contrails in the Albuquerque Sunset.
Contrails in the Albuquerque Sunset.
Images by Darla Sue Dollman

The sun will come out tomorrow. Although it's been a chilly weekend and there is still a 10% chance of snow on Monday, January 9, 2012, the sunshine will prevail with a high temperature of 44 degrees and a nighttime low of 25. There will be a slight breeze blowing through Rio Rancho, possible 5 mph.

The sun will continue to shine on Tuesday, January 10 with a high near 51 and nighttime low of 28. Wednesday, January 11 will be slightly warmer at 52 with a 10% chance of precipitation and cooler in the evening with a low of 27. Thursday, January 12, 2012, the temperature will drop a tad with 49 degrees for a daytime high and a 20% chance of precipitation. The nighttime low will be 24 degrees.

Friday the 13th, our luck with the weather might change for the better with only a 10% chance of precipitation, mostly sunny skies and a high of 52 degrees. Friday evening, the rain could turn to snow with a low temperature of 26. Saturday will be mostly sunny with a high of 56 and Sunday, January 15, 2012, the temperature will reach a high of 46 degrees and the skies will be clear.

Cool, clear winter days are a good time to watch the skies for contrails, condensation trails that form in the exhaust of aircraft. These trails often crisscross the skies over Albuquerque and present interesting displays at sunset.

The length of time a contrail will remain in the sky depends on the weather conditions at the time the aircraft passes through. If it's cold and moist outside, as it will be in the week ahead, water vapor in the airplane's hot exhaust gases mixes with the very cold air, condenses and forms ice crystals. Sometimes these contrails dissipate quickly.

At other times, as can be seen in the accompanying photos, contrails can last for hours, widening slowly, creating interesting patterns like modern art in the clouds about New Mexico, particularly if the ice crystals absorb water vapor from the surrounding air, grow in size, and are spread by the wind. In these situations, contrails can actually encourage the formation of Cirrus, Cirrocumulus, and Cirrostratus clouds.

Keep a close eye on the sky for contrails this week, and watch for distrails, too. Distrails are when planes leave a gap in the cloud layer as they cut through the clouds. This, too, is shown in the accompanying photos. The heat of the plane's engine make cloud droplets evaporate, or encourage supercooled droplets to freeze and drop to the ground. Keep your eyes on the skies!


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