PerspectiveAtmospheric Science

Just add aerosols

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Science  06 Jun 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6188, pp. 1089
DOI: 10.1126/science.1255398

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The more carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the stronger the climate warming that results. Likewise, the more aerosol particles suspended in the atmosphere, the greater the ability of these particles either to scatter sunlight back to space and cool the planet or to absorb sunlight in the atmosphere, thereby warming the atmosphere while cooling Earth's surface. However, not all such climate forcing processes depend linearly on the concentrations of their forcing agent. The climatic effects of aerosols are complicated by their interactions with clouds (1). On page 1143 of this issue, Koren et al. (2) show that even small additions of aerosol particles to clouds in the cleanest regions of Earth's atmosphere will have a large effect on those clouds and their contribution to climate forcing.