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Applied Optics

Applied Optics


  • Vol. 44, Iss. 27 — Sep. 20, 2005
  • pp: 5684–5687

Halos in cirrus clouds: why are classic displays so rare?

Kenneth Sassen  »View Author Affiliations

Applied Optics, Vol. 44, Issue 27, pp. 5684-5687 (2005)

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Upper tropospheric cirrus clouds consist of hexagonal ice crystals, which geometrical ray-tracing-theory predicts should regularly produce a variety of optical phenomena such as vivid 22° and 46° halos. Yet, cirrus inconsistently generate such optical displays, while a class of more exotic displays are reported, albeit rarely. I review current knowledge of the cirrus cloud microphysical factors that control ice crystal shape, and hence halo/arc formation, but also appeal to halo enthusiasts to help investigate the causes of unusually complex, brilliant, or rare optical displays. Currently, a wealth of meteorological information can be tapped from the Internet to help advance our knowledge of the basic meteorological factors leading to these rare events.

© 2005 Optical Society of America

Original Manuscript: January 11, 2005
Revised Manuscript: April 5, 2005
Manuscript Accepted: April 5, 2005
Published: September 20, 2005

Kenneth Sassen, "Halos in cirrus clouds: why are classic displays so rare?," Appl. Opt. 44, 5684-5687 (2005)

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  1. D. Lynch, “Cirrus: history and definition,” in Cirrus, D. Lynch, K. Sassen, D. O’C. Starr, G. L. Stephens, eds. (Oxford University, 2002), pp. 3–10.
  2. K. Sassen, G. G. Mace, J. Hallett, M. R. Poellot, “Corona-producing ice clouds: a case study of a cold cirrus layer,” Appl. Opt. 37, 1477–1585 (1998). [CrossRef]
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  11. R. F. Lin, D. O’C Starr, P. J. DeMott, R. Cotton, K. Sassen, E. Jensen, B. Karcher, X. Jiu, “Cirrus parcel model comparison project phase. I: The critical components to simulate cirrus initiation explicitly,” J. Atmos. Sci. 59, 2305–2329 (2002). [CrossRef]
  12. V. I. Khvorostyanov, K. Sassen, “Cirrus cloud simulation using explicit microphysics and radiation. Part II: Microphysics, vapor and mass budgets, and optical and radiative properties,” J. Atmos. Sci. 55, 1822–1845 (1998). [CrossRef]
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  14. K. Sassen, N. C. Knight, Y. Takano, A. J. Heymsfield, “Effects of ice crystal structure on halo formation: cirrus cloud experimental and ray-tracing modeling studies,” Appl. Opt. 33, 4590–4601 (1994). [CrossRef] [PubMed]
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  16. R. Greenler, Rainbows, Halos, and Glories (Cambridge University, New York, 1980).
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  18. W. G. Finnegan, R. C. Pitter, “Ion-induced charge separations in growing single ice crystals: effects on growth and interaction processes,” J. Colloid Interface Sci. 189, 322–327 (1997). [CrossRef]
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  20. Y. Chen, P. J. DeMott, S. M. Kreidenweis, D. C. Rogers, D. E. Sherman, “Ice formation by sulfate and sulfuric acid aerosol particles under upper-tropospheric conditions,” J. Atmos. Sci. 57, 3752–3766 (2000). [CrossRef]
  21. A. J. Heymsfield, R. M. Sabin, Cirrus crystal nucleation by homogeneous freezing of solution droplets, J. Atmos. Sci. 46, 2252–2264 (1989). [CrossRef]
  22. K. Sassen, D. O’C Starr, G. G. Mace, M. R. Poellot, S. H. Melfi, W. L. Eberhard, J. D. Spinhirne, E. W. Eloranta, D. E. Hagen, J. Hallett, “The 5–6 December 1991 FIRE IFO II jet stream cirrus case study: possible influences of volcanic aerosols,” J. Atmos. Sci. 52, 97–123 (1995). [CrossRef]
  23. M. Bailey, J. Hallett, “Nucleation effects on the habit of vapour grown ice crystals from −18° and −42 °C,” Q. J. R. Meteorol. Soc. 128, 1461–1483 (2002).
  24. K. Sassen, “Icy dust clouds over Alaska,” Nature 434, 456 (2005). [CrossRef]
  25. K. Sassen, J. Zhu, S. Benson, “A midlatitude cirrus cloud climatology from the Facility for Atmospheric Remote Sensing: IV. Optical displays,” Appl. Opt. 42, 332–341 (2003). [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  26. J. Nelson, “Sublimation of ice crystals,” J. Atmos. Sci. 55, 910–919 (1998). [CrossRef]

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