The radiative transfer equation is solved by Monte Carlo methods for natural waters in which the optical properties are distributed with depth. It is demonstrated that interpreting the reflectance of a continuously stratified ocean in terms of an equivalent homogeneous ocean yields the average of a particular combination of the water's optical properties over the dimensionless penetration depth τ90. Although in general the dimensionless penetration depth cannot be remotely measured, a method is presented for estimating the actual penetration depth z90 from the remote observations if the medium's absorption coefficient is known, independent of depth, and sufficiently large. The application of this to the remote measurement of the vertical distribution of suspended sediments is discussed in detail.
© 1978 Optical Society of America
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