Using simple ray-tracing simulations, the cause of the rare Parry arc has been linked historically to horizontally oriented columns that display the peculiar ability to fall with a pair of prism faces closely parallel to the ground. Although we understand the aerodynamic forces that orient the long-column axis in the horizontal plane, which gives rise to the relatively common tangent arcs of the 22° halo, the mechanism leading to the Parry crystal orientation has never been resolved adequately. On 16 November 1998, at the University of Utah Facility for Atmospheric Remote Sensing, we studied a cirrus cloud producing a classic upper Parry arc using polarization lidar and an aircraft with a new high-resolution ice crystal imaging probe. Scanning lidar data, which reveal extremely high linear depolarization ratios δ a few degrees off the zenith direction, are simulated with ray-tracing theory to determine the ice crystal properties that reproduce this previously unknown behavior. It is found that a limited range of thick-plate crystal axis (length-to-diameter) ratios from ∼0.75 to 0.93 generates a maximum δ ≈ 2.0–5.0 for vertically polarized 0.532-µm light when the lidar is tilted 1°–2° off the zenith. Halo simulations based on these crystal properties also generate a Parry arc. However, although such particles are abundant in the in situ data in the height interval indicated by the lidar, one still has to invoke an aerodynamic stabilization force to produce properly oriented particles. Although we speculate on a possible mechanism, further research is needed into this new explanation for the Parry arc.
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