Ice-cloud particle habit classification using principal components

H. Lindqvist, K. Muinonen, T. Nousiainen, J. Um, G. M. McFarquhar, P. Haapanala, R. Makkonen, H. Hakkarainen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A novel automatic classification method is proposed for identifying the habits of large ice-cloud particles and deriving the shape distribution of particle ensembles. This IC-PCA (Ice-crystal Classification with Principal Component Analysis) tool is based on a principal component analysis of selected physical and statistical features of ice-crystal perimeters. The method is developed and tested using image data obtained with a Cloud Particle Imager, but can be applied to other silhouette data as well. For three randomly selected test cases of 222, 200, and 201 crystals from tropical, midlatitude, and arctic ice clouds, the combined classification accuracy of the IC-PCA is 81.1%. Since previous, semiautomatic classification methods are more time-consuming and include a subjective phase, the automatic and objective IC-PCA offers a notable improvement in retrieving the shapes of the individual crystals. As the habit distributions of ice-cloud particles can be applied to computations of radiative impact of cirrus, it is also demonstrated how classification uncertainties propagate into the radiative transfer computations by using the arctic test case as an example. Computations of shortwave radiative fluxes show that the flux differences between clouds of manually and automatically classified crystals can be as large as 10 Wm-2 but also that two manual classifications of the same image data result in even larger differences, implying the need for a systematic and repeatable classification method.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberD16206
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres
Issue number16
StatePublished - 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Forestry
  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Palaeontology


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