Researchers uncover the origin of atmospheric particles

sky
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In a study led by the University of Leeds, scientists have solved one of the most challenging and long-standing problems in atmospheric science: to understand how particles are formed in the atmosphere.

The research paper, published online today in the journal Science, details the first computer simulation of atmospheric particle formation that is based entirely on experimental data. The research was made possible thanks to a sophisticated laboratory called CLOUD, based within the research facility CERN in Switzerland.

The lead scientist on the study, Professor Ken Carslaw from the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds said: "This is a major milestone in our understanding of the . The CERN experiment is unique, and it has produced data that seemed completely out of reach just five years ago."

Clouds in the atmosphere consist of tiny droplets, which form when water condenses around small particles in the atmosphere called 'aerosols'. Understanding how aerosols are formed is therefore vital for understanding cloud formation – a process that has, until now, been an uncertain quantity in climate models, introducing problems for climate change projections.

For over 30 years, scientists have been able to build computer simulations of atmospheric gases based on measurements of made in a laboratory. This capability has been essential to our current understanding of the atmosphere, including the destruction of the ozone layer.

Until now, the same level of understanding has not been possible for aerosol particles in the atmosphere because of the enormous challenges involved in reliably measuring particle formation in a laboratory.

The CLOUD experiment can measure the 'nucleation' of new atmospheric particles – that is, when certain molecules in the atmosphere cluster together and grow to form new particles – in a specially designed chamber under extremely well controlled environmental conditions. Nucleation is important because, by current estimates, about half of all cloud droplets are formed on that were created in this way.

Professor Carslaw concludes: "These new results will give us much more confidence in how particles and clouds are handled in global ."


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More information: E. M. Dunne et al. Global atmospheric particle formation from CERN CLOUD measurements, Science (2016). DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf2649
Journal information: Science

Citation: Researchers uncover the origin of atmospheric particles (2016, October 28) retrieved 16 July 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2016-10-uncover-atmospheric-particles.html
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Oct 29, 2016
After browsing their paper, I wonder why the tiny dust particles blown by wind or co-vaporized with water can be ruled out as a major contributor to nucleation.

Oct 29, 2016
"Nucleation is important because, by current estimates, about half of all cloud droplets are formed on aerosol particles that were created in this way."
Which has me wondering - what about the other half?
I'd say nucleation is how ALL droplets are formed.
And - Couldn't H2O all by itself be considered an aerosol...? Or only if combined with some other chemical?

Oct 30, 2016
"Which has me wondering - what about the other half? " it is supposed to be of 'ionic origin', the ions caused by cosmic rays. an ion is an excellent nucleation center because it is charged.

Oct 30, 2016
"Which has me wondering - what about the other half? " it is supposed to be of 'ionic origin', the ions caused by cosmic rays. an ion is an excellent nucleation center because it is charged.

The ions being particles... charged by cosmic rays...

Oct 30, 2016
Which has me wondering - what about the other half?

The ions being particles... charged by cosmic rays...

@Whyde
e-mailed you some info... let me know what you find out, ok?

i haven't had time to look at it yet

PEACE

Oct 30, 2016
Having done computer simulations, I can say that it's not hard to program a simulation that yields whatever results one wants. The problem of course, is that there are a lot of things going on in the atmosphere reality that models don't incorporate, nucleation being one of them. After all, if "by current estimates, about half of all cloud droplets are formed" via nucleation, what is or are forming the other half which isn't being included in the models, and it seems "about half" is a rather crude estimate.

Oct 30, 2016
Another classical example of modern ignorance. Particles are not the cause, but the result, as usual.
If a particle is present during condensation, it provides a surface for such. That's all. It's how the air cleans itself.
The standard model (quantum mechanics) and general relativity theory (space-time) are the greatest crackpot theories of all time.

Dark matter, anyone? Kindergarten tripe.

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