We show that the cluster ion concentration (CIC) in the atmosphere is significantly suppressed during events that involve rapid increases in particle number concentration (PNC). Using a neutral cluster and air ion spectrometer, we investigated changes in CIC during three types of particle enhancement processes – new particle formation, a bushfire episode and an intense pyrotechnic display. In all three cases, the total CIC decreased with increasing PNC, with the rate of decrease being greater for negative CIC than positive. We attribute this to the greater mobility, and hence the higher attachment coefficient, of negative ions over positive ions in the air. During the pyrotechnic display, the rapid increase in PNC was sufficient to reduce the CIC of both polarities to zero. At the height of the display, the negative CIC stayed at zero for a full 10 min. Although the PNCs were not significantly different, the CIC during new particle formation did not decrease as much as during the bushfire episode and the pyrotechnic display. We suggest that the rate of increase of PNC, together with particle size, also play important roles in suppressing CIC in the atmosphere.