PerspectiveAtmospheric Science

Getting to the Critical Nucleus of Aerosol Formation

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Science  11 Jun 2010:
Vol. 328, Issue 5984, pp. 1366-1367
DOI: 10.1126/science.1189732

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Atmospheric aerosols—microscopic particles suspended in Earth's atmosphere—are a major environmental problem. They degrade visibility, negatively affect human health, and directly and indirectly influence climate by absorbing and reflecting solar radiation and modifying cloud formation. Researchers do not, however, fully understand at the molecular level how aerosols form, creating one of the largest sources of uncertainty in atmospheric models and climate predictions (1). Recent findings suggest a path to a better understanding of aerosol formation (24).