The role of low-volatility organic compounds in initial particle growth in the atmosphere

About half of present-day cloud condensation nuclei originate from atmospheric nucleation, frequently appearing as a burst of new particles near midday. Atmospheric observations show that the growth rate of new particles often accelerates when the diameter of the particles is between one and ten nanometres. In this critical size range, new particles are most likely to be lost by coagulation with pre-existing particles, thereby failing to form new cloud condensation nuclei that are typically 50 to 100 nanometres across. Sulfuric acid vapour is often involved in nucleation but is too scarce to explain most subsequent growth5, 6, leaving organic vapours as the most plausible alternative, at least in the planetary boundary layer.

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