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Are Cloud Formations Connected With Cosmic Rays?

The CLOUD (Cosmics Leaving OUtdoor Droplets) project at CERN is using the proton synchrotron at the LHC to investigate the controversial link between cosmic rays and cloud formation. This week Nature contains a paper on the first round of findings.

Cosmic rays are charged subatomic particles (mostly protons) that originate outside our solar system. The strength of our sun’s solar wind, which is tied to solar activity, controls how many of those particles penetrate Earth’s atmosphere. When solar activity is high, fewer cosmic rays make it in because they are deflected by the solar wind. Several researchers have claimed that changes in cosmic ray flux have a great effect on cloud formation, and thus have a large effect on global temperature, but little is understood about the details of the process.

The initial findings of the CLOUD experiment don’t contain anything earth-shattering, and don’t really address the possible effects on climate. Nevertheless, the experiment is showing some very interesting results.”

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