## Abstract

The distribution function of the ocean nadir radiance, defined by the upward radiance-to-irradiance ratio, is investigated as functions of the absorption coefficient and the volume scattering function to understand their relationship rather than to develop a numerical algorithm. It is shown for oceanic waters that the distribution function is directly proportional to the volume scattering function normalized by the backscattering coefficient. The relatively small spectral variation of the distribution function is explained by the small spectral variation of the normalized volume scattering function, as well as by a function that describes the contribution of the backscattering-to-absorption ratio to the distribution function. The interpretation described was verified against *in situ* data, highlighting factors controlling the distribution function of oceanic waters.

© 2009 Optical Society of America

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