Deep in a homogeneous medium that both scatters and absorbs photons, such as a cloud, the ocean, or a thick planetary atmosphere, the radiance decreases exponentially with depth, while the angular dependence of the radiance and polarization is independent of depth. In this diffusion region, the asymptotic radiance and polarization are also independent of the incident distribution of radiation at the upper surface of the medium. An exact expression is derived for the asymptotic radiance and polarization for Rayleigh scattering. The approximate expression for the asymptotic radiance derived from the scalar theory is shown to be in error by as much as 16.4%. An exact expression is also derived for the relation between the diffusion exponent k and the single scattering albedo. A method is developed for the numerical calculation of the asymptotic radiance and polarization for any scattering matrix. Results are given for scattering from the haze L and cloud C3 distributions for a wide range of single scattering albedos. When the absorption is large, the polarization in the diffusion region approaches the values obtained for single scattered photons, while the radiance approaches the value calculated from the expression: phase function divided by (1 + kμ), where μ is the cosine of the zenith angle. The asymptotic distribution of the radiation is of interest since it depends only on the inherent optical properties of the medium. It is, however, difficult to observe when the absorption is large because of the very low radiance values in the diffusion region.
© 1976 Optical Society of America
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