The large horizontal extent, with its location in the cold upper troposphere, and ice composition make cirrus clouds important modulators of the Earth's radiation budget and climate. Cirrus cloud microphysical properties are difficult to measure and model because they are inhomogeneous in nature and their ice crystal size distribution and habit are not well characterized. Accurate retrievals of cloud properties are crucial for improving the representation of cloud-scale processes in largescale models and for accurately predicting the Earth's future climate. A number of passive and active remote sensing retrieval algorithms exist for estimating the microphysical properties of upper-tropospheric clouds. We believe significant progress has been made in the evolution of these retrieval algorithms in the last decade; however, there is room for improvement. Members of the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) program Cloud Properties Working Group are involved in an intercomparison of optical depth τ and ice water path in ice clouds retrieved using ground-based instruments. The goals of this intercomparison are to evaluate the accuracy of state-of-the-art algorithms, quantify the uncertainties, and make recommendations for their improvement.

Currently, there are significant discrepancies among the algorithms for ice clouds with very small optical depths (τ < 0.3) and those with 1 < τ < 5. The good news is that for thin clouds (0.3 < τ < 1), the algorithms tend to converge. In this first stage of the intercomparison, we present results from a representative case study, compare the retrieved cloud properties with aircraft and satellite measurements, and perform a radiative closure experiment to begin gauging the accuracy of these retrieval algorithms.

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Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, Washington

Atmospheric and Environmental Research, Inc., Lexington, Massachusetts

University of Wisconsin—Madison, Madison, Wisconsin

University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah

Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, NOAA/Earth System Research Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado

NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia

Desert Research Institute, Reno, Nevada

University of Alaska, Fairbanks, Fairbanks, Alaska

University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming