A simple dimensionless parameter, L, is shown to determine whether or not new particle formation can occur in the atmosphere on a given day. The criterion accounts for the probability that clusters, formed by nucleation, will coagulate with preexisting particles before they grow to a detectable size. Data acquired in an intensive atmospheric measurement campaign in Atlanta, Georgia, during August 2002 (ANARChE) were used to test the validity of this criterion. Measurements included aerosol size distributions down to 3 nm, properties and composition of freshly nucleated particles, and concentrations of gases including ammonia and sulfuric acid. Nucleation and subsequent growth of particles at this site were often dominated by sulfuric acid. New particle formation was observed when L was less than ∼1 but not when L was greater than ∼1. Furthermore, new particle formation was only observed when sulfuric acid concentrations exceeded 5 × 106 cm-3. The data suggest that there was a positive association between concentrations of particles produced by nucleation and ammonia, but this was not shown definitively. Ammonia mixing ratios during this study were mostly in the 1 to 10 ppbv range.