Skyworms: Loving Contrails Without Guilt

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


What happens when contrails—airplane condensation trails—appear in the works of art?What happens when artists paint or photograph contrails and how does this act affect the status of contrails as envi- ronmental phenomena? Do contrails count as aesthetic phenomena in the same way as “other” clouds? Can we enjoy the sight of a contrail and still be environmentalists? Can something that so eloquently epitomizes the causes of anthropogenic climate change—contrails contribute to the atmospheric radiative forcing even more than aviation’s CO2 emissions—be worthy of an aesthetic experience? But then, should our knowledge of contrail’s ecology be kept at bay when we look at them for what they are: pristine, monumental streaks of white motion, silently carved on an indigo background on which they thin, spread, and disappear much like the ski tracks in snow that change their shape with a coming thaw. Is it a crime to enjoy contrails?
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSilver Linings
Subtitle of host publicationClouds in Art and Science
Place of PublicationTrondheim
Pages210 - 225
Number of pages15
ISBN (Print)9788283050899
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020


  • Arts
  • Art and Science
  • Clouds
  • Condensation Trails
  • Ansel Adams
  • Environment
  • Climate change
  • Aesthetics


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