The Refractive Index of Water Ice

This page serves to gather available information on the refractive index of water ice.  

Water can exist in the solid phase as amorphous ice (Ia), or in a crystalline form as either hexagonal (Ih) or cubic (Ic) ice.  Cubic ice is a metastable crystal and will transform into hexagonal ice (Ih) upon warming.  This transformation is time and temperature dependent, requiring roughly 1 hour at 170 K and 6 or more days at 145 K.  Amorphous ice (Ia) forms at temperatures below 100 K, and will crystallize into Ic at temperatures above ~135 K.  Because crystallization is irreversible, ice existing as Ih or Ic will remain unchanged upon cooling to temperatures as low as 100 K.  The current record of available ice refractive indices covers Ia, Ic, and Ih and temperatures from 10 to 266 K.  The optical properties of hexagonal and cubic ice are generally considered to be identical (Warren, 1984, Mastrapa et al., 2008), however, the existing data do not necessarily validate that assertion.

The table below summarizes the ice refractive indices and offers the data as ascii files.  The files are taken from the original sources and reformated into a common format.  The data are roughly ordered by temperature.  

An IDL file reader is available here (

For questions or comments contact Mark Hervig ([email protected])
The page is currently under construction.

Ice Refractive Index Data.  
Data Files
(T, habit)
Hudgins et al. (1993)2.5 - 20010 - 140K

Ia for T < 100,
transforming to Ic
for T > 100 K

10K, Ia
40K, Ia
80K, Ia
100K, Ia
120K, Ia?
140K, Ia?
Mastrapa et al. (2008)1.1 - 1520 - 150K
Ic for 20 to 150 K; also
Ia for T < 70 K and T > 70 K

<70K, Ia
>70K, Ia
20K, Ic
40K, Ic
50K, Ic
60K, Ic
70K, Ic
80K, Ic
90K, Ic
100K, Ic
110K, Ic
120K, Ic
130K, Ic
140K, Ic
150K, Ic
Leger et al. (1983)2.5 - 8077K
Mukai and Kraetschmer (1986)2.5 - 1523K
Bertie et al. (1969)1.2 - 333100K
Clapp et al. (1995)2.5 - 12.5130 - 210K
Ih, possibly Ic at low T

130K, Ih
140K, Ih
150K, Ih
160K, Ih
170K, Ih
180K, Ih
190K, Ih
200K, Ih
210K, Ih
Toon et al. (1994)1.4 - 20163K
Rajaram et al. (2001)1.4 - 2.7166 - 196
Gosse et al. (1995)1.4 - 7.8251K
imaginary index only
Kou et al. (1993)0.65 - 2.5248K
imaginary index only
Perovich and Govoni (1991)0.25 - 0.4Iafile
Browell and Anderson (1975)0.16 - 0.32Ia and Ih
real index only
Warren (1984)0.05 - 2000266K
based on many data sets
Warren and Brandt (2008)0.05 - 2000266K
based on many data sets

Refractive Index Links

Warren & Brandt, U. of Washington

Wagner's Refractive Index Links

Jena - St. Petersbug Database


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Bertie, J. E., H. J. Labbe, and E. Whalley, Absorptivity of ice I in the Range 4000-30 cm-1, J. Chem. Phys., 50, 4501-4520, 1969.

Browell, E. V., and R. C. Anderson, Ultraviolet optical constants of water and ammonia ices, J. Opt. Soc. America , 65, 919-925, 1975.

Clapp, M. L., R. E. Miller, and D. R. Worsnop, Frequency-dependent optical constants of water ice obtained directly from aerosol extinction spectra, J. Phys. Chem., 99, 6317, 1995.

Gosse, S., D. Labrie, and P. Chylek, Refractive index of ice in the 1.4-7.8-mm spectral range, Applied optics, 34, 6582-6586, 1995.

Hudgins, D. M., S. A. Sandford, L. J. Allamandola, and L. J. Tielens, Mid- and Far-Infrared Spectroscopy of Ices: Optical Constants and Integrated Absorbances, Astrop. J. Supp. Ser., 86, 713-870, 1993.

Kou, L., D. Labrie, and P. Chylek, Refractive indices of water and ice in the 0.65- to 2.5 m spectral range, Appl. Optics, 19, 3531-3540, 1993.

Leger, A., S. Gauthier, D. Defourneau, D. Rouan, Properties of amorphous H2O ice and origin of the 3.1-micron absorption, Astron. and Astrophysics, 117, 164-169, 1983.  (PDF)

Mastrapa, R. M., M. P. Bernstein, S. A. Sandford, T. L. Roush, D. P. Cruikshank, C. M. Dalle Ore, Optical constants of amorphous and crystalline H2O-ice in the near infrared from 1.1 to 2.6 μm, Icarus, doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2008.04.008, 2008.

Mukai, T., and W. Kraetschmer, Optical constants of the mixture of ices, Earth, Moon, and Planets (ISSN 0167-9295), 36, 145-155, 1986. (PDF)

Perovich, D. K., and J. W. Govoni, Absorption coefficients of ice from 250 to 400 nm, Geophys. Res. Lett., 18, 1233-1235, 1991.

Rajaram B., D. L. Glandorf, D. B. Curtis, M. A. Tolbert, O. B. Toon, and N. Ockman, Temperature-dependent optical constants of water ice in the near infrared: new results and critical review of the available measurements, Applied Optics, 40, 4449-4462, 2001.

Toon O. B., M. A. Tolbert, B. G. Koehler, A. M. Middlebrook, and J. Jordan, Infrared optical constants of H2O ice, amorphous nitric acid solutions, and nitric acid hydrates, J. Geophys. Res., 99, 25,631-25,645, 1994.

Warren, S. G., Optical constants of ice from the ultraviolet to the microwave, Appl. Optics, 23, 11,906-11,926, 1984.

Warren, S. G., and R. E. Brandt, Optical constants of ice from the ultraviolet to the microwave: A revised compilation, J. Geophys. Res., 113, doi:10.1029/2007JD009744, 2008.