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Digital all-sky polarization imaging of partly cloudy skies

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Abstract

Clouds reduce the degree of linear polarization (DOLP) of skylight relative to that of a clear sky. Even thin subvisual clouds in the “twilight zone” between clouds and aerosols produce a drop in skylight DOLP long before clouds become visible in the sky. In contrast, the angle of polarization (AOP) of light scattered by a cloud in a partly cloudy sky remains the same as in the clear sky for most cases. In unique instances, though, select clouds display AOP signatures that are oriented 90° from the clear-sky AOP. For these clouds, scattered light oriented parallel to the scattering plane dominates the perpendicularly polarized Rayleigh-scattered light between the instrument and the cloud. For liquid clouds, this effect may assist cloud particle size identification because it occurs only over a relatively limited range of particle radii that will scatter parallel polarized light. Images are shown from a digital all-sky-polarization imager to illustrate these effects. Images are also shown that provide validation of previously published theories for weak (2%) polarization parallel to the scattering plane for a 22° halo.

© 2008 Optical Society of America

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