Atmospheric ionization produced by cosmic rays has been suspected to influence aerosols and clouds, but its actual importance has been questioned. If changes in atmospheric ionization have a substantial impact on clouds, one would expect to observe significant responses in Earth’s energy budget. Here it is shown that the average of the five strongest week-long decreases in atmospheric ionization coincides with changes in the average net radiative balance of 1.7 W/m2 (median value: 1.2 W/m2 ) using CERES satellite observations. Simultaneous satellite observations of clouds show that these variations are mainly caused by changes in the short-wave radiation of low liquid clouds along with small changes in the long-wave radiation, and are almost exclusively located over the pristine areas of the oceans. These observed radiation and cloud changes are consistent with a link in which atmospheric ionization modulates aerosols formation and growth, which survive to cloud condensation nuclei and ultimately affect cloud formation and thereby temporarily the radiative balance of Earth.