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Norman G. Loeb, Ping Yang, Fred G. Rose, Gang Hong, Sunny Sun-Mack, Patrick Minnis, Seiji Kato, Seung-Hee Ham, William L. Smith Jr., Souichiro Hioki, and Guanglin Tang

Abstract

Ice cloud particles exhibit a range of shapes and sizes affecting a cloud’s single-scattering properties. Because they cannot be inferred from passive visible/infrared imager measurements, assumptions about the bulk single-scattering properties of ice clouds are fundamental to satellite cloud retrievals and broadband radiative flux calculations. To examine the sensitivity to ice particle model assumptions, three sets of models are used in satellite imager retrievals of ice cloud fraction, thermodynamic phase, optical depth, effective height, and particle size, and in top-of-atmosphere (TOA) and surface broadband radiative flux calculations. The three ice particle models include smooth hexagonal ice columns (SMOOTH), roughened hexagonal ice columns, and a two-habit model (THM) comprising an ensemble of hexagonal columns and 20-element aggregates. While the choice of ice particle model has a negligible impact on daytime cloud fraction and thermodynamic phase, the global mean ice cloud optical depth retrieved from THM is smaller than from SMOOTH by 2.3 (28%), and the regional root-mean-square difference (RMSD) is 2.8 (32%). Effective radii derived from THM are 3.9 μm (16%) smaller than SMOOTH values and the RMSD is 5.2 μm (21%). In contrast, the regional RMSD in TOA and surface flux between THM and SMOOTH is only 1% in the shortwave and 0.3% in the longwave when a consistent ice particle model is assumed in the cloud property retrievals and forward radiative transfer model calculations. Consequently, radiative fluxes derived using a consistent ice particle model assumption throughout provide a more robust reference for climate model evaluation compared to ice cloud property retrievals.

Open access