Clumpy torus models with N0 ~ 5–15 dusty clouds along radial equatorial rays successfully explain AGN infrared observations. The dust has standard Galactic composition, with individual cloud optical depth τV ~ 30–100 at visual. The models naturally explain the observed behavior of the 10 μm silicate feature, in particular the lack of deep absorption features in AGNs of any type, and can reproduce the weak emission feature tentatively detected in type 2 QSOs. The clouds' angular distribution must have a soft edge, e.g., Gaussian, and the radial distribution should decrease as 1/r or 1/r2. In line with recent interferometry, the ratio of the torus outer to inner radius can be as small as ~5-10. The models can produce nearly isotropic IR emission together with highly anisotropic obscuration, as required by observations. Clumpiness implies that the viewing angle determines an AGN classification only probabilistically; a source can display type 1 properties even from directions close to the equatorial plane. The fraction of obscured sources depends not only on the torus angular thickness but also on the cloud number N0, and this fraction's observed decrease with luminosity can be explained with a decrease of either parameter. X-ray obscuration, too, is probabilistic; resulting from both dusty and dust-free clouds, it might be dominated by the latter, giving rise to the observed QSOs that are X-ray obscured. Observations indicate that the torus and broad-line-emitting clouds form a seamless distribution, with the transition between the two caused by dust sublimation. Torus clouds may have been detected in the outflow component of H2O maser emission from two AGNs. Proper-motion measurements of outflow masers, especially in Circinus, are a promising method for probing the morphology and kinematics of torus clouds.

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Published in The Astrophysical Journal, v. 685, no. 1, p. 160-180.

© 2008. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved. Printed in U.S.A.

The copyright holder has granted the permission for posting the article here.

An erratum to this article can be found at https://doi.org/10.1088/0004-637X/723/2/1827.

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Partial support by NSF and NASA is gratefully acknowledged.