Ice Fog: The Current State of Knowledge and Future Challenges

Ismail Gultepe, Andrew Heymsfield, Martin Gallagher, Luisa Ickes, Darrel Baumgardner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ice fog is a natural, outdoor cloud laboratory that provides an excellent opportunity to study ice microphysical processes. Ice crystals in fog are formed through similar pathways as those in elevated clouds; that is, cloud condensation or ice nuclei are activated in an atmosphere supersaturated with respect to liquid water or ice. The primary differences between surface and elevated ice clouds are related to the sources of water vapor, the cooling mechanisms and dynamical processes leading to supersaturation, and the microphysical characteristics of the nuclei that affect ice fog crystal physical properties. As with any fog, its presence can be a hazard for ground or airborne traffic because of poor visibility and icing. In addition, ice fog plays a role in climate change by modulating the heat and moisture budgets. Ice fog wintertime occurrence in many parts of the world can have a significant impact on the environment. Global climate models need to accurately account for the temporal and spatial microphysical and optical properties of ice fog, as do weather forecast models. The primary handicap is the lack of adequate information on nucleation processes and microphysical algorithms that accurately represent glaciation of supercooled water fog. This chapter summarizes the current understanding of ice fog formation and evolution; discusses operating principles, limitations, and uncertainties associated with the instruments used to measure ice fog microphysical properties; describes the prediction of ice fog by the numerical forecast models and physical parameterizations used in climate models; identifies the outstanding questions to be resolved; and lists recommended actions to address and solve these questions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4.1-4.24
Number of pages24
JournalMeteorological Monographs
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 25 Oct 2017


  • cloud microphysics
  • cloud radiative effects
  • ice crystals
  • icing
  • visibility
  • instrumentation
  • sensors


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