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Scientists recently discovered the source of naturally occurring aerosol particles in Earth’s atmosphere that play an important role in cloud formation. The particles in questions are known as ‘climate-active organic aerosols,’ and are vapors composed of large molecules that contain almost equal numbers of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen.

The international research team found that these vapors form shortly after the release of plant emissions into the air. The vapors condense on small particles, causing them to grow bigger and bigger. Eventually, they reach a size that is large enough to cause noticeable changes in the atmosphere – like reflecting sunlight, and acting as nuclei for cloud formation.

The research was published in the journal Nature, and shows a direct mechanism for how life on Earth can influence the production of particles that play a big role in processes affecting Earth’s climate.

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