Airborne lidar signals of cirrus clouds are analyzed to determine the cloud structure. Climate modeling and numerical weather prediction benefit from accurate modeling of cirrus clouds. Airborne lidar measurements of the European Lidar in Space Technology Experiment (ELITE) campaign were analyzed by combining shots to obtain the backscatter at constant altitude. The signal at high altitude was analyzed for horizontal structure of cirrus clouds. The power spectrum and the structure function show straight lines on a double logarithmic plot. This behavior is characteristic for a Brownian fractal. Wavelet analysis using the Haar wavelet confirms the fractal aspects. It is shown that the horizontal structure of cirrus can be described by a fractal with a dimension of 1.8 over length scales that vary 4 orders of magnitude. We use the fractal properties in a new denoising method. Denoising is required for future lidar measurements from space that have a low signal to noise ratio. Our wavelet denoising is based on the Haar wavelet and uses the statistical fractal properties of cirrus clouds in a method based on the maximum a posteriori (MAP) probability. This denoising based on wavelets is tested on airborne lidar signals from ELITE using added Gaussian noise. Superior results with respect to averaging are obtained. Copyright 2000 by the American Geophysical Union.