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Ions in the atmosphere

Harrison, G. ORCID: (2014) Ions in the atmosphere. In: North, G. R., Pyle, J. and Zhang, F. (eds.) Encyclopedia of Atmospheric Sciences, 2nd edition. Elsevier, pp. 9-13. ISBN 9780123822253

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In Earth’s atmosphere, an ion is a cluster of molecules carrying an overall charge, known as a molecular cluster ion. Such cluster ions, with dimensions of approximately one nanometre, have usually been referred to as small ions, and their motion in air constitutes a small electric current. Large ions (or Langevin ions), by comparison, are physically larger (tens to hundreds of nm) and consequently electrically less mobile. Usage of the term “ion” to represent these molecular clusters originates from the early history of atmospheric electricity, which spans the discovery of the electron and the elucidation of the structure of matter. The distinction between large and small ions originates from distinguishing ions that could be accelerated by atmospheric electric fields (and therefore directly contribute to the conductivity of air), and those (the large ions) which were insufficiently electrically mobile to contribute to electrical conduction in air.

Item Type:Book or Report Section
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:52362

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