Potential impacts of lightning-induced plasma on cloud ice formation and precipitation have been a subject of debate for decades. Here, we report on the interaction of laser-generated plasma channels with water and ice clouds observed in a large cloud simulation chamber. Under the conditions of a typical storm cloud, in which ice and supercooled water coexist, no direct influence of the plasma channels on ice formation or precipitation processes could be detected. Under conditions typical for thin cirrus ice clouds, however, the plasma channels induced a surprisingly strong effect of ice multiplication. Within a few minutes, the laser action led to a strong enhancement of the total ice particle number density in the chamber by up to a factor of 100, even though only a 10(-9) fraction of the chamber volume was exposed to the plasma channels.

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