An approach is developed to infer the optical thickness of semitransparent ice clouds (when optical thickness is less than 5) from Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) high spectral resolution radiances. A fast cloud radiance model is developed and coupled with an AIRS clear-sky radiative transfer model for simulating AIRS radiances when ice clouds are present. Compared with more accurate calculations based on the discrete ordinates radiative transfer model, the accuracy of the fast cloud radiance model is within 0.5°K (root mean square) in terms of brightness temperature (BT) and runs three orders of magnitude faster. We investigate the sensitivity of AIRS spectral BTs and brightness temperature difference (BTD) values between pairs of wavenumbers to the cloud optical thickness. The spectral BTs for the atmospheric window channels within the region 1070–1135 cm-1 are sensitive to the ice cloud optical thickness, as is the BTD between 900.562 cm-1 (located in an atmospheric window) and 1558.692 cm-1 (located in a strong water vapor absorption band). Similarly, the BTD between a moderate absorption channel (1587.495 cm-1) and the strong water absorption channel (1558.692 cm-1) is sensitive to ice cloud optical thickness. Neither of the aforementioned BTDs is sensitive to the effective particle size. Thus, the optical thickness of semitransparent ice clouds can be retrieved reliably. We have developed a spectrum-based approach and a BTD-based method to retrieve the optical thickness of semitransparent ice clouds. The present retrieval methods are applied to a granule of AIRS data. The ice cloud optical thicknesses derived from the AIRS measurements are compared with those retrieved from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) 1.38- and 0.645µm bands. The optical thicknesses inferred from the MODIS measurements are collocated and degraded to the AIRS spatial resolution. Results from the MODIS and AIRS retrievals are in reasonable agreement over a wide range of optical thicknesses.