PerspectiveATMOSPHERIC CHEMISTRY

Cracking the problem of ice nucleation

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Science  27 Jan 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6323, pp. 346-347
DOI: 10.1126/science.aam5320

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Summary

Ice-nucleating particles in Earth's atmosphere have a profound impact on cloud properties. Among the plethora of particle types in the atmosphere, certain feldspars associated with desert dust have been identified as very important ice-nucleating particles (1). As Kiselev et al. (2) show on page 367 of this issue, specific crystallographic features, which only appear in small patches in cracks or other imperfections, may be responsible for feldspar's capacity to nucleate ice (see the image). These results not only help us to understand why certain feldspars are so good at nucleating ice, but may help pave the way to a more general understanding of how ice crystals nucleate.