Journal article

No statistically significant effect of a short-term decrease in the nucleation rate on atmospheric aerosols

Dunne E, Lee L, Reddington C, Carslaw K ...see all

Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, vol. 12, issue 23 (2012) pp. 11573-11587

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Observed correlations between short-term decreases in cosmic ray
ionisation and cloud and aerosol properties have been attributed to
short-term decreases in the ion-induced nucleation rate. We use a global
aerosol microphysics model to determine whether a 10 day reduction of
15% in the nucleation rate could generate a statistically significant
response in aerosol concentrations and optical properties. As an upper
limit to the possible effect of changes in ion-induced nucleation rate,
we perturb the total nucleation rate, which has been shown to generate
particle concentrations and nucleation events in reasonable agreement
with global observations. When measured against a known aerosol control
state, the model predicts a 0.15% decrease in global mean cloud
condensation nucleus concentration at the surface. However, taking into
account the variability in aerosol, no statistically significant
response can be detected in concentrations of particles with diameters
larger than 10 nm, in cloud condensation nuclei with diameters larger
than 70 nm, or in the Angstrom exponent. The results suggest that the
observed correlation between short-term decreases in cosmic ray
ionisation and cloud and aerosol properties cannot be explained by
associated changes in the large-scale nucleation rate.

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  • E. M. Dunne

  • L. A. Lee

  • C. L. Reddington

  • K. S. Carslaw

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