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vapour trail

noun
1.
a visible trail left by an aircraft flying at high altitude or through supercold air, caused by the deposition of water vapour in the engine exhaust as minute ice crystals Also called condensation trail, contrail
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Encyclopedia Article for vapour trail

condensation trail

streamer of cloud sometimes observed behind an airplane flying in clear, cold, humid air. It forms upon condensation of the water vapour produced by the combustion of fuel in the airplane engines. When the ambient relative humidity is high, the resulting ice-crystal plume may last for several hours. The trail may be distorted by the winds, and sometimes it spreads outwards to form a layer of cirrus cloud. On rare occasions, when the air is nearly saturated with water vapour, air circulation at the wing tips of an airplane may cause sufficient pressure and temperature reductions to cause cloud streamers to form

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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