Clouds and aerosols have a large, yet highly uncertain, effect on changes in Earth's climate. A factor of particular note is the role played by ice-nucleating particles, which remains poorly understood. The mineral K-feldspar (Kfs) has recently been shown by a number of independent studies to nucleate ice in mixed-phase cloud conditions far more efficiently than other common minerals. Here, global atmospheric Kfs flux through geologic time is estimated; constrained by records of secular continental crust and biosphere evolution, plate tectonics, volcanism, glaciation, and attendant trends in land surface stability. The analysis reveals that Kfs flux today is at neither extreme of the range estimated across geological time. The present-day Kfs flux, however, is likely to be among the most spatially and temporally variable due to land surface change. The concept of an ice-nucleation efficiency factor that can be calculated from rocks, and also eolian sediments and soils, is proposed. This allows the impact of paleo-atmospheric dust to be estimated through the rock record alongside meteorological and atmospheric composition considerations. With the reasonable assumption that the ice-nucleating properties of Kfs are themselves independent of the background climate state, a better understanding of Kfs flux across a range of spatial and temporal scales will advance understanding of climate processes and interactions.
- Received 13 October 2016.
- Revision received 21 December 2016.
- Accepted 28 December 2016.
- ©The Authors
Gold Open Access: This paper is published under the terms of the CC-BY license.