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When a contrail occurs in a pure and over-saturated air in high altitude, it's also because of the engines emit condensation nuclei.

But if the contrail expands in a wider cirrus, where do the contrails gets the condensation nuclei from? (I'm guessing it's necessary for the expansion of the condensation).

Or can the cloud grow without additional nuclei ?

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Supersaturated environments just need the initial condensation in order to start the entire condensation process. It doesn't need to find more condensation nuclei particles. The condensation nuclei generated by the engines is enough to start the chain reaction for a cloud to form in the supersaturated environment.

Take this video as an example. It is an aqueous solution but the situation is the same: a single crystal causes the rest of the solids to precipitate out of the solution.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for answering. Do you know what I could search to understand the phenomenon better please? I admit I don't know what keyword to search. And "Condensation chain reaction" gave me poor and unrelated results so far. $\endgroup$
    – vmonteco
    Sep 11 at 20:26
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    $\begingroup$ @vmonteco: There is an article in Nature, Formation and radiative forcing of contrail cirrus, which explains how the cirrus expands from the contrail. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Sep 12 at 13:19
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    $\begingroup$ @mins Thank you very much ! $\endgroup$
    – vmonteco
    Sep 12 at 13:33

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