We report an algorithm that can be used to invert the radiance exiting the top and bottom of the atmosphere to yield the columnar optical properties of atmospheric aerosol under clear sky conditions over the oceans. The method is an augmentation of a similar algorithm presented by Wang and Gordon [Appl. Opt. 32, 4598 (1993)] that used only sky radiance, and therefore was incapable of retrieving the aerosol phase function at the large scattering angles that are of critical importance in remote sensing of oceanic and atmospheric properties with satellites. Well-known aerosol models were combined with radiative transfer theory to simulate pseudodata for testing of the algorithm. The tests suggest that it should be possible to retrieve the aerosol phase function and the aerosol single-scattering albedo accurately over the visible spectrum at aerosol optical thicknesses as large as 2.0. The algorithm is capable of retrievals with such large optical thicknesses because all significant orders of multiple scattering are included. We believe that combining an algorithm of this type with surface-based and high-altitude aircraft-based radiance measurements could be useful for studying aerosol columnar optical properties over oceans and large lakes. The use of the retrieval method is possible over the ocean because, unlike the land surface, the albedo of the ocean is low and spatially uniform.
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