The Impact on the Ozone Layer of a Potential Fleet of Civil Hypersonic Aircraft

Douglas Kinnison, Guy P. Brasseur, Steven L. Baughcum, Jun Zhang, Donald Wuebbles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The aeronautical community is currently researching technology that might lead to commercial hypersonic aircraft that would cruise at Mach 5–8 in the middle or upper stratosphere and would transfer passengers from London to New York or from Los Angeles to Tokyo in just a couple of hours. Depending on the engine technology to be adopted, these aircraft will potentially release substantial amounts of water vapor and nitrogen oxides around 30–40 km altitude. We show here that the operation of a large fleet of such aircraft could potentially deplete considerable amounts of ozone in the stratosphere, which would lead to a substantial increase in biologically damaging ultraviolet radiation reaching the Earth's surface. The calculations are based on a specific emission scenario, which carries large uncertainties but can easily be scaled to account for the type of aircraft engine to be eventually adopted, improved technology to be expected, and the size and operation conditions of the future aircraft fleet.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2020EF001626
JournalEarth's Future
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020


  • atmospheric sciences
  • hypersonic aircraft
  • ozone layer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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