Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Cluster growth

Those whose memories extend back further than the latest Nobel award may recall that since at least 1960, cosmic rays have been repeatedly invoked as causing cloud formation and thus driving climate change. This conceit has been knocked down innumerable times but keeps arising. While on its face it is reasonable to think that ionization of molecules by cosmic rays will drive formation of small aerosols, there has been very little (and here Eli considerably exaggerates) on the relative importance of ionized aerosols and neutral ones.

Now comes Markku Kulmala, Ilona Riipinen, Mikko Sipilä, Hanna E. Manninen, Tuukka Petäjä, Heikki Junninen, Miikka Dal Maso, Genrik Mordas, Aadu Mirme, Marko Vana, Anne Hirsikko, Lauri Laakso, Roy M. Harrison, Ian Hanson, Carl Leung, Kari E. J. Lehtinen, Veli-Matti Kerminen in Science 318 (5847), 89 - 92 (2007) who have hiked into the Finnish forest sherpaing a large amount of new instrumentation including a Neutral Cluster–Air Ion Spectrometer (NAIS), a UF-02proto Condensation Particle Counter and a Grimm nanoDMA and Faraday Cup Electrometer preceded by a unipolar charger and emerged to write on Toward Direct Measurement of Atmospheric Nucleation.

Atmospheric aerosol formation is known to occur almost all over the world, and the importance of these particles to climate and air quality has been recognized. Although almost all of the processes driving aerosol formation take place below a particle diameter of 3 nanometers, observations cover only larger particles. We introduce an instrumental setup to measure atmospheric concentrations of both neutral and charged nanometer-sized clusters. By applying the instruments in the field, we come to three important conclusions: (i) A pool of numerous neutral clusters in the sub–3 nanometer size range is continuously present; (ii) the processes initiating atmospheric aerosol formation start from particle sizes of 1.5 nanometers; and (iii) neutral nucleation dominates over the ion-induced mechanism, at least in boreal forest conditions.
If the rate of cosmic ray driven ionized nuclei formation is much too low to drive aerosol (and thus cloud) formation then cloud formation will not depend on cosmic ray fluxes. This result is from a forest, and will certainly be followed up on

Recently it was suggested that the formation of new atmospheric aerosol particles is connected with the existence of thermodynamically stable 1- to 2-nm clusters, formed in the atmosphere by some nucleation mechanism. From a physical standpoint, two very different cluster types in the sub–3 nm size range can be distinguished: charged (air ions or ion clusters) and neutral species. The existence of atmospheric ion clusters as small as 0.5 to 1 nm in diameter has been known for decades, and measurements with ion spectrometers, such as the Air Ion Spectrometer (AIS) and Balanced Scanning Mobility Analyzer (BSMA), have demonstrated that such clusters are present almost all the time. The production rates of ion clusters are, however, generally too low to explain the observed aerosol-formation rates.

In view of the insufficient numbers of ion clusters, the keyto understanding atmospheric aerosol formation is clearly the presence of neutral clusters.


Anonymous said...

This just confirms what some of us always figured: cloud formation through cosmic ray-induced nucleation is nothing but a lot of hot plasma.

Chris said...


I recall reading differently somewhere about the relative importance of ionise versus non-ionised CCN. Can't for the life of me remeber where though...

However, I do know that in coastal and maritime situations, giant CCN (generally salt crystals) tend to dominate, and there ionisation state tends not to effect cloud formation.

EliRabett said...

You say ionise
And I say ionize
Let's call the whole thing off!
But oh! If we call the whole thing off,
Then we must part.
And oh! If we ever part,
Then that might break my blog!
So, if you like ionise and I like ionize,
I'll spell ionise and give up ionize.
For we know we need each other,
So we better call the calling off off.
Let's call the whole thing off!

With VERY sincere apologies to Ira Gershwin. Oh sulfuring succotash

Horatio Algeranon said...

With apologies (sincere or otherwise) to the Eagles:

You can't hide your ionize
And your cloud is a thin disguise
I thought by now you'd realize
There ain't no way to hide your ionize
There ain't no way to hide your ionize
Honey, you can't hide your your ionize

Anonymous said...

Your link to the artic in Science requires either a subscription or pay per view. Not all of us who read your blog have access, or are willing to pony up money. Do you have the paper available via another link?

It always bothers me that publicly funded science papers are rountnely sequestered behind a pay portal.

Anonymous said...

i agree that the results to publicly funded research should be made freely available to the public. Journals should be free to charge, but there should be a clause written into the research funding contract that says the entire paper can be posted freely on the internet by anyone who wishes to do so (provided they properly cite the authors, of course).

I have often wondered what the science journals would do if someone with a subscription started just posting articles anonymously on line.

If one posted several articles on the same blog, it would attract attention, of course and might lead to a law suit -- or at least a cease and deists order, but if one did it discretely (on many different blogs, for example) it would be much less likely to lead to such a lawsuit) and one would presumably have to get a "cease and desist" order for each separate blog.

I would have no ethical problem doing that because as far as i am concerned, the journals do not own the rights to these papers and it is unethical to charge the public for something that they already paid for -- and own.

Hank Roberts said...

I'd like to thank all those who actually did pay for this research, those would be the people who funded:

1 Department of Physical Sciences, University of Helsinki, Post Office Box 64, FI-00014, Helsinki, Finland.

2 Institute of Environmental Physics, University of Tartu, Ülikooli 18, EE-50090, Tartu, Estonia.

3 Division of Environmental Health and Risk Management, School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK.

4 Department of Physics, University of Kuopio and Finnish Meteorological Institute, Kuopio Unit, Post Office Box 1627, 70211 Kuopio, Finland.

5 Finnish Meteorological Institute, Post Office Box 503, FI-00101, Helsinki, Finland.

Having myself paid no taxes in Finland, the UK, or Estonia, I can't criticize your decision to publish in Science rather than in some more available venue.

If any of the authors does, as often happens, post the article to a personal website, please let us know.


Comment: I recall many publications documenting the size and shape of particles found in the air over the oceans have come up with what appear to be viruses; I know there is some unbelievable number of viruses per gram of ocean water, and that this can change as the ocean pH and temperature and salinity change. Could be interesting feedback coming.

Anonymous said...

Well, Hank, I don't know where you're from, but I do know that America paid one hell of a price (in lives and dollars) to free Finland and Estonia from Nazi occupation during WWII (funded thanks to the American taxpayer).

And the UK would almost certainly now be speaking German today as well if not for American help.

The least they can do is show a little gratitude by making their climate science research freely available to us, don't ya think?

Dan W said...

I don’t see how this addresses the issue of whether ionized particles may be more efficient cloud nuclei than non ionized particles even though they are less common (by more than a magnitude) over boreal forests...

Am I missing something?

Anonymous said...

"America paid one hell of a price (in lives and dollars) to free Finland"

The Finland that fought off the Soviets in 1940? The Finland that was allied with Germany until 1944, and then fought them off in the Lapland War?

That one?

Anonymous said...

This very city I'm writing from was bombed with American bombers that had been given to the Soviet Union during the war for the purpose (They even used DC-2 planes for that!). Finland also never took Marshall aid after the war, and also paid the big war reparations to the Soviet Union that nobody thought to say to Stalin were unfair, besides losing a lot of land area, like Karelia, with the nation's second biggest city and also Petsamo with access to the polar sea, both of which still nowadays are parts of Russia. But still the country considers itself lucky that it avoided occupation by the Soviets, unlike many others.

But that aside, I actually know a student who worked at the measurement site for this and he's writing a paper of his own about this whole aerosol thing...
I think some preprint versions of Kulmala et al's paper were available somewhere when I checked it, not sure anymore.
Anyway, I also asked the guy to take some photos for the surface station network, as they complain that stations ain't rural enough... :P
And whaddya know the stuff pops up at rabett run. Funny how small this world is.

-flavius collium

Anonymous said...

I was not talking about Marshall plan aid.

Are you saying Finland owes no debt of gratitude to the US for freeing it from Nazi rule?

If so, you are re-writing history.

Cynthia said...

...sulfering succotash...

Eli, maybe you're not an anthropomorphic rabbit, but I wouldn't be too shocked to hear that you're an anthropogenic cat!;~)

EliRabett said...

Eli thinks that some of the mice need to take a course in Finnish history in the thirties and forties. Suffice it to say that the Germans never occupied Finland, that the US/UK never freed Finland and that the Russians fought two wars with Finland that they barely won, with the Finns ceding considerable territory on the east to the Russians. Googling "Winter War" or "Continuation War" should help. Remember to alway RTFR.

Anonymous said...

anonymous, how exactly did "US free Finland of Nazi rule"? I'm curious as to how you see there:

1) ever being a Nazi rule in Finland
2) Finland getting out of it
3) part 2 being accomplished by USA

If nothing intelligible comes out, I'll stop feeding the troll.

Short history overview:

Finland tried to ask for help against the Soviets during the winter war 1939+ but got none. (Germany had agreed before the war to let Soviet Union take Finland, you know, the same pact where they divided Poland.)

In the continuation war 1941-44 the Germans were the only ones to help against the Soviets (the whole relationship with Germany thing is tricky and many books have been written about it). At this phase USA and the Allies declared war against Finland. Finns would have starved to death without German grain. Also German hardware like airplanes helped. (Remember the Soviets had US planes.) There were German troops in Finland, mainly in the north, fighting the Soviets. Finland was never occupied.

In the end when the Germans were losing and the Soviets advancing, the Finns made a peace with the Soviets and had to drive the German forces in Finland out, that was in the peace treaty terms. So that was done, in the Lapland war.

So I fail to see how USA helped Finland during the war in any way or "liberated" Finland. If anything, they sponsored and approved the attacks against Finland's liberty that, luckily to Finland, failed, or it would have had the same fate as Estonia or Hungary: 50 years under a totalitarian communist regime.

-flavius collium

Steve Bloom said...

But fc, all of that was pre-arbustocene and is thus no longer part of history.

J. said...

Putting aside the bizarre rewriting of Finnish history for a moment ...

Outside of certain high-profit fields (drugs, biotech, IT, ...) nearly all scientific research is supported by public funds to some degree. Even if you get your grant from the Mellon Foundation or something, chances are you're still doing the work in a lab that was partly developed using funds from other government grants, or you're at a state-supported university, or ...

Which brings us to the question of publishing results in journals that charge a subscription.

Basically, historically that has been the cost of getting the results out. Before the Internet, there just wasn't a way to peer-review and disseminate research results at low/no-cost. Of course, most government-supported projects produce annual and final reports that often can be obtained for free if you're persistent enough ... but they're not peer-reviewed and are properly seen as gray-lit.

Maybe a decade from now paper, subscription-based journals will be extinct and everything will be free on the Internet ... but there are significant hurdles, like dealing with long-term archiving and peer-review, that need to be crossed.

I understand the appeal of "do-it-yourself science" -- people who aren't scientists and don't work at an institution that provides access to professional journals, but who want to get involved. The thing is, journal access is actually the least significant obstacle to DIY science. The bigger problem is that you really need to go through the whole training process.

Very few people are able to acquire the depth of knowledge needed for good science as autodidacts.

J. said...

I do find this amusing:

Are you saying Finland owes no debt of gratitude to the US for freeing it from Nazi rule?

It's a marvelously succinct example of the assumption (common over here) that OF COURSE everybody must owe a debt of gratitude to the US.

If there were any reasoning involved, it would probably go like this:

(1) Finland is in Europe.

(2) The Nazis occupied Europe.

(3) American soldiers landed on the Normandy beaches and liberated Europe from the Nazis.

(4) Ergo, we freed Finland from the Nazis and they're a bunch of ingrates if they ever forget that.

EliRabett said...

Somehow Estonia got left out of the discussion, and again the answer is Sadly No TM. The history of the Baltic Republics in WWII is again no simple thing to confront.

Adam said...

I think you could say, with some considerable justification:

"The history of [any country] in WWII is again no simple thing to confront."

OT but talking about non-simple national stories, have you seen this from The Tyndall Centre?



Not read the whole thing yet so it may tell us, but subtracting 23% and re-allocating it might change the emissions table a bit.

Horatio Algeranon said...

Sensitivity is not,
What it's claimed to be,
It's just 1 degree,
Instead of 3.

Anonymous said...

Nice one Horatio, validating with the existing history... Although your blurb here is misleading, to clarify to others, it's looking a bit like "what if Schwartz was right, does the method reproduce the instrumental record?" And it doesn't, with a sensitivity of 1 C.

What if you take the latest Friis - Christensen claims, where they assume some CO2 forcing trend (I don't remember how many 0.x C in a decade) in the background and detect a solar signal on top of that. Then take that background trend as the CO2 effect... You might maybe then get somewhat smaller sensitivity values as the portion of the observed warming caused by CO2 is less, and that's what is one line of defence of certain people... But you still might get pretty big numbers.

-flavius collium

Horatio Algeranon said...

My "blurb" above was from my poem The Circle Game (because, as I indicated, some have already started to quote Schwartz' results as one of their mantras)

But you may be excused for not immediately recognizing it -- as you might recognize "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?", for example.

Anonymous said...

Great poem, I really like it, hadn't seemed to stumble on it earlier, by some accident I must have overlooked.

-F C

Horatio Algeranon said...

FC: "What if you take the latest Friis - Christensen claims, ... You might maybe then get somewhat smaller sensitivity values"

Perhaps, but it still might not be enough for Schwartz' sensitivity of 1.1 to account for all the warming attributable to CO2 over the past 3 decades.

As near as I can figure, in order for Schwartz' sensitivity value (1.1°C) to account for the observed warming attributable to CO2 over that period, something other than greenhouse gases (eg, the sun) would have to have caused fully 40% of the total observed warming over the last 3 decades.

The evidence simply does not support that, particularly not when it comes to the sun (TSI has been pretty much flat over that period and the cosmic ray theory is not consistent with the data)

Tamino anlayzed the Lockwood and Frohlich results here
and the Svensmark/Friis response here

Glad you liked the poem, by the way. There's lot's more where that came from.

not_liberated_one said...

no comments on history part of the discussion (someone should read some history books, however)

link to the paper can be found:

EliRabett said...

Thanks for the link. The discussion got more than a little sidetracked but it did start with Eli reading the paper, and one hopes that some of the mice learned something on two counts.:)