International Group of Researchers Shows Emissions From Forests Influence Very First Stage of Cloud Formation

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Oxidized organic molecules (green) and sulfuric acid (red) cluster together, eventually forming a particle (right) that is capable of nucleating cloud droplets.

Clouds play a critical role in Earth’s climate. Clouds also are the largest source of uncertainty in present climate models, according to the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Much of the uncertainty surrounding clouds’ effect on climate stems from the complexity of cloud formation. New research from scientists at the CLOUD (Cosmics Leaving OUtdoor Droplets) experiment at CERN, including Carnegie Mellon’s Neil Donahue, sheds light on new-particle formation – the very first step of cloud formation and a critical component of climate models.