First ISCCP Regional Experiment (FIRE) II-Cirrus

11/13/1991 - 12/07/1991
Project Location
Southeastern Kansas

The First ISCCP Regional Experiment (FIRE) II-Cirrus project was an experimental investigation of the cirrus cloud systems that form an integral part of the second intensive field observational phase of the cirrus component of the First ISCCP Regional Experiment (FIRE). The primary platforms used were the NCAR Sabreliner (N307D) and King Air (N312D) aircraft equipped with radiation sensors. In addition to these measurements, correlative data from surface radiometer and lidar measurements from NASA's ER-2 and Satellite data were collected. Data from the wave cloud flights complemened existing data collected in 1989 and 1990, and provided a basis for direct comparison with Kansas measurements. Additionally, FIRE II provided an environment ideal for instrumentation calibration and performance evaluation.

The overall goal of the International Satellite Land Surface Climatology Project (ISLSCP) was to improve the understanding of satellite measurements relating particularly to the fluxes of momentum, heat, water vapor, and carbon dioxide from land surfaces. The First ISLSCP Regional Experiment (FIRE) was a multi-agency program designed to promote the development of improved cloud and radiation parameterizations for use in climate models, and to provide for assessment and improvement of International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP) data products. The strategy of FIRE was to combine modeling activities with satellite, airborne, and surface observations to study two types of climatically important cloud systems, namely cirrus and marine stratocumulus, that have important roles in the climate system by virtue of their extensive areal coverage, persistence, and radiative effects. Previous FIRE Phase I (1984-1989) Intensive Field Observations (IFO) data gathering field campaigns took place in 1986 (Cirrus-I) and 1987 (Stratocumulus). FIRE Phase II (1989-1994) Cirrus-II was conducted in southeastern Kansas during 13 November through 7 December 1991 to study mid-continent cirrus clouds associated with the sub-tropical jet stream.
Project participants for FIRE-Cirrus II included the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), University of Washington (UW), Pennsylvania State University (PSU), University of Utah, University of North Dakota (UND), University of Denver, Colorado State University (CSU) and SPECTRE Inc.

Scientific Objectives:
The primary objective of FIRE were to: (1) seek the basic understanding of the interaction of physical processes in determining life cycles of cirrus and stratocumulus systems and the radiative properties of these clouds during their lifecycles; and (2) investigate the interrelationships between the ISCCP data, Global Climate Model (GCM) parameterizations, and higher space and time resolution cloud data.
The key FIRE Cirrus-II science objectives were to: (1) Incorporate FIRE Phase I and Phase II data into models of varying scale and complexity for the purpose of developing and testing cirrus parameterizations and assessing capabilities to reliably simulate cirrus development on short and long time scales; (2) Characterize the physical, thermodynamical, and dynamical development of cirrus clouds on the synoptic scale, mesoscale, convective/turbulent scale, and the microscale; (3) Characterize relationships among various cirrus cloud optical properties, including cloud optical depths (visible, near infrared, and infrared), cloud scattering phase functions, and cloud single scattering albedos; (4) Characterize relationships among various cirrus cloud physical properties, including particle size, number density, phase, habit, cloud height, temperature, and thickness; (5) Explicitly quantify the capabilities and limitations of methods to derive physical and optical cirrus cloud properties from satellite observations, especially ISCCP, and future techniques for producing global cloud climatologies in the Earth Observing System (EOS) era; (6) Quantify the impact of cirrus clouds on the surface, atmosphere, and top-of-atmosphere radiation budgets; and (7) Improve the capability to utilize surface-based active and passive remote sensing observations for quantitative studies of cirrus clouds.

Measurements were made from a diverse set of observing platforms including satellites, research aircraft, surface sites, and rawinsondes. The intent was to obtain a comprehensive set of observations at the greatest level of coincidence possible.
FIRE utilized lidars in combination with conventional in-situ observations and a wide variety of coincident satellite observations to provide as complete and accurate a description as possible of a number of regional cirrus events. Satellite data were obtained from operational geostationary and polar-orbiting NOAA satellites and from ERS-1, ERBS, DMSP, METEOR, and LANDSAT. Three (3) prime surface sites were operated throughout the experiment including an extensive array of radiometric sensors. Research aircraft in-situ observations were obtained from three (3) aircraft (the NCAR Sabreliner, NCAR King Air, and UND Citation), and included detailed microphysical measurements as well as radiometric and meteorological data. Remote sensing observations were made from NASA’s high-altitude ER-2 aircraft. ER-2 Instrumentation also included the Cloud and Aerosol Lidar System (CALS), the High-resolution Interferometer Sounder (HIS), and high-resolution scanning and radiometer sensors. Rawinsonde data (00 and 12 UTC plus special 3-h releases) were obtained from four (4) National Weather Service (NWS) sites and five (5) special rawinsonde sites. Wind Profiler data were obtained from eight (8) NWS Wind Profiler Network sites and three (3) special FIRE sites.
The Operations Center was located at the Coffeyville, Kansas, Airport with direct real-time access to GOES Satellite data and the standard meteorological database through a link to the McIDAS system located at the Space Science and Engineering Center at UW.


Observational Network for the 1991 FIRE Cirrus-II Intensive Field Observation domain (Kansas/Oklahoma)


Aircraft NASA ER-2; NCAR Sabreliner; NCAR King Air; UND Citation
Chemistry Dobson Total Ozone (NOAA/ERL); Trace Gas Flask Samples (NOAA/ERL)
Lidar Polarization Lidar (U Utah, NASA/LaRC); High-Spectral Resolution Lidar (UW); Scanning C02 Doppler Lidar (NOAA/WPL, CSU); Scanning Lidar (UW); DIAL Lidar (CSU); Raman Water Vapor Lidar (NASA/GSFC)
Photography Sky Imaging Systems (PSU, CSU)
Profiler Microwave wind profiler (PSU, CSU); RASS (PSU, WPL, CSU, WPL); NOAA/NWS wind profiler network
Radar Scanning Doppler Radar (NOAA/WPL and PSU)
Radiometers Microwave Water Vapor Sounder (NOAA/WPL, PSU); Infrared Spectrometer (NASA/GSFC, CSU, UW, U Denver); Sun Photometer (NOAA/ERL, PSU, CSU); Infrared-Window Radiometer (U Utah, PSU, CSU); Direct Spectral Solar Radiometer (U Denver, CSU); Solar Flux Radiometers (PSU, CSU); Broadband Infrared Flux Radiometers (NOAA/ERL, PSU, CSU); Blackbody Infrared Calibration Facility (SPECTRE, CSU)
Satellite NOAA GOES VISSR, H20 and VAS
Satellite NOAA Polar Orbiting AVHRR (HRPT & GAC) and HIRS/MSU
Satellite LANDSAT(TM), ERBS (SAGE II), DMPS (SSM/I and Imager), and ERS-1 (ATRS) satellite data
Surface PAM Network (NCAR); CSU
Upper Air CLASS Rawinsonde (CSU, NCAR, WFF); Rawinsonde System (GSFC/WFF);
Upper Air Cloud Ice Particle Repllicator Sondes (NCAR); Ozone Sonde (NOAA/ERL); Tethered Balloon Sounder (GSFC, WFF)
Upper Air NOAA/NWS Rawinsonde Network

Further information and details on FIRE-Cirrus II can be found at: 

FIRE Cirrus Intensive Field Observations – II: Operations Plan, FIRE Project Office and the FIRE Cirrus Working Group, May 1991

FIRE Phase II: Cirrus Implementation Plan. Cirrus Drafting Panel and the FIRE Project Office, NASA, August 1990.


Principal Investigators:

  • Andrew J. Heymsfield, et al. 

Data Manager: