Publication Date


Document Type


Publication Title

Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics







First Page


Last Page



Cirrus cloud radiative effects are largely affected by ice microphysical properties, including ice water content (IWC), ice crystal number concentration (Ni) and mean diameter (Di). These characteristics vary significantly due to thermodynamic, dynamical and aerosol conditions. In this work, a global-scale observation dataset is used to examine regional variations of cirrus cloud microphysical properties, as well as several key controlling factors, i.e., temperature, relative humidity with respect to ice (RHi), vertical velocity (w) and aerosol number concentrations (Na). Results are compared with simulations from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Community Atmosphere Model version 6 (CAM6). Observed and simulated ice mass and number concentrations are constrained to 62:5 um to reduce potential uncertainty from shattered ice in data collection. The differences between simulations and observations are found to vary with latitude and temperature. Comparing with averaged observations at 100 km horizontal scale, simulations are found to underestimate (overestimate) IWC by a factor of 3-10 in the Northern (Southern) Hemisphere. Simulated Ni is overestimated in most regions except the Northern Hemisphere midlatitudes. Simulated Di is underestimated by a factor of 2, especially for warmer conditions (50 to 40 C), possibly due to misrepresentation of ice particle growth/sedimentation. For RHi effects, the frequency and magnitude of ice supersaturation are underestimated in simulations for clear-sky conditions. The simulated IWC and Ni show bimodal distributions with maximum values at 100% and 80% RHi, differing from the unimodal distributions that peak at 100% in the observations. For w effects, both observations and simulations show variances of w (w) decreasing from the tropics to polar regions, but simulations show much higher w for the in-cloud condition than the clear-sky condition. Compared with observations, simulations show weaker aerosol indirect effects with a smaller increase of IWC and Di at higher Na. These findings provide an observation-based guideline for improving simulated ice microphysical properties and their relationships with key controlling factors at various geographical locations.

Funding Number


Funding Sponsor

National Science Foundation

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Meteorology and Climate Science