Ions produced by cosmic rays have been thought to influence aerosols and clouds. In this study, the effect of ionization on the growth of aerosols into cloud condensation nuclei is investigated theoretically and experimentally. We show that the mass-flux of small ions can constitute an important addition to the growth caused by condensation of neutral molecules. Under atmospheric conditions the growth from ions can constitute several percent of the neutral growth. We performed experimental studies which quantify the effect of ions on the growth of aerosols between nucleation and sizes >20 nm and find good agreement with theory. Ion-induced condensation should be of importance not just in Earth’s present day atmosphere for the growth of aerosols into cloud condensation nuclei under pristine marine conditions, but also under elevated atmospheric ionization caused by increased supernova activity.
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Svensmark, H., Enghoff, M. B., Shaviv, N. J., & Svensmark, J. (2017). Increased ionization supports growth of aerosols into cloud condensation nuclei. Nature Communications, 8(1), . https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-017-02082-2