Some aerosol particles primarily reflect solar radiation and cool the atmosphere, and others can also absorb radiation and warm the surrounding air. When aerosols heat the atmosphere, they create an unstable environment where clouds can't thrive. The suppression of clouds leads to further warming of the atmosphere by solar radiation. Aerosols are a complex but critical piece of the climate puzzle, and researchers are still working to understand the role of these curious particles. Note: Forest fires (biomass burning) emit black soot carbon aerosol clouds. Sun rays are absorbed by these dark clouds. Some sun rays are reflected and some still travel through the cloud to the ground. Animator: Megan Willy (UMBC). Producer: Maria Frostic (UMBC). Scientist: Michael Mischenko (NASA/GISS).