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Proceedings Paper

Polarization Of Light In The Natural Environment
Author(s): Kinsell L. Coulson
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Paper Abstract

This paper provides a characterization of the fields of light polarization with which the optical designer or user of optical devices in the natural environment must be concerned. After a brief historical outline of the principal developments in polarization theory and observations during the last two centuries, the main emphasis is on the two primary processes responsible for the polarization of light in nature--scattering of light by particles of the atmosphere and reflection from soils, vegetation, snow, and water at the earth's surface. Finally, a seven minute film on polarization effects which can be seen in everyday surroundings will be shown. Scattering by atmospheric particles is responsible for high values of polarization in various atmospheric conditions and at certain scattering geometries. Such scattering particles include molecules of the atmospheric gases, aerosols of dust, haze, and air pollution, water droplets of fog and clouds, and the ice crystals of cirrus. It is seen that development of the theory of scattering by such particles has outstripped the measurements necessary for validation of the theory, a fact which points up the importance of symposia such as the present one. The reverse is true, however, for the polarizing properties of natural surfaces. Only in the case of still water is the theory of reflection adequate to characterize in a quantitative fashion the polarizing effects produced by the reflection of light from such natural surfaces. Polarization of light by reflection from vegetation is of prime importance in a remote sensing context, but much further work is needed to characterize vegetative reflectance for the purpose. The short film on polarization effects provides a good visualization technique and training aid for students interested in the field.

Paper Details

Date Published: 25 January 1990
PDF: 9 pages
Proc. SPIE 1166, Polarization Considerations for Optical Systems II, (25 January 1990); doi: 10.1117/12.962873
Show Author Affiliations
Kinsell L. Coulson, University of California (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 1166:
Polarization Considerations for Optical Systems II
Russell A. Chipman, Editor(s)

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