We have developed a two-dimensional (2D) model for inhomogeneous cirrus clouds in plane-parallel and spherical geometries for the analysis of the transmission and backscattering of high-energy laser beams. The 2D extinction-coefficient and mean effective ice-crystal size fields for cirrus clouds can be determined from a combination of the remote sensing of cirrus clouds by use of the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer on board National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellites and the vertical profiling of ice-crystal size distributions available from limited measurements. We demonstrate that satellite remote sensing of the position and the composition of high cirrus can be incorporated directly in the computer model developed for the transmission and backscattering of high-energy laser beams in realistic atmospheres. The results of laser direct transmission, forward scattering, and backscattering are analyzed carefully with respect to aircraft height, cirrus cloud optical depth, and ice-crystal size and orientation. Uncertainty in laser transmission that is due to errors in the retrieved ice-crystal size is negligible. But uncertainty of the order of 2% can be produced if the retrieved optical depth has errors of ±0.05. With both the aircraft and the target near the cloud top, the direct transmission decreases, owing to the propagation of the laser beam through the curved portion of the cloud top. This effect becomes more pronounced as the horizontal distance between the aircraft and the target increases.
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