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Keywords:

  • orientation;
  • crystals;
  • ice clouds

[1] We analyze optical signatures in 18 months of CALIOP layer-integrated backscatter and depolarization ratio to investigate the geographical and seasonal distribution of oriented crystals in ice clouds on a global scale. Oriented crystals are found to be rare: they appear in ∼6% of all ice cloud layers, and inside these layers the proportion of oriented crystals is estimated below 5%, even though they have a significant effect on the cloud optical properties. The geographical pattern of crystal orientation is very stable over the year, without any noticeable cycle. We investigate the atmospheric conditions which might lead to crystal orientation, including synoptic-scale dynamics and thermodynamic profiles. In the tropics, detections of crystal orientation are more numerous in areas dominated by convection on a monthly basis, and at midlatitudes less numerous in areas dominated by strong horizontal winds. Synoptic effects, however, appear secondary; orientation is primarily driven by temperature. Oriented crystals are mostly nonexistent in ice clouds colder than −30°C, and very frequent in warmer ice clouds, appearing in 30% of such clouds in the tropics and up to 50% at higher latitudes. The temperatures where oriented crystals are found (−30°C to −10°C) are conducive to the formation of planar crystals. Results suggest oriented crystals are more frequent just above cloud base in slightly thicker cloud layers, which might provide clues to how and why orientation takes place.