We report the results of simulations in which an algorithm developed for estimation of aerosol optical properties from the angular distribution of radiance exiting the top of the atmosphere over the oceans [Appl. Opt. 33, 4042 (1994)] is combined with a technique for carrying out radiative transfer computations by synthesis of the radiance produced by individual components of the aerosol-size distribution [Appl. Opt. 33, 7088 (1994)], to estimate the aerosol-size distribution by retrieval of the total aerosol optical thickness and the mixing ratios for a set of candidate component aerosol-size distributions. The simulations suggest that in situations in which the true size–refractive-index distribution can actually be synthesized from a combination of the candidate components, excellent retrievals of the aerosol optical thickness and the component mixing ratios are possible. An exception is the presence of strongly absorbing aerosols. The angular distribution of radiance in a single spectral band does not appear to contain sufficient information to separate weakly from strongly absorbing aerosols. However, when two spectral bands are used in the algorithm, retrievals in the case of strongly absorbing aerosols are improved. When pseudodata were simulated with an aerosol-size distribution that differed in functional form from the candidate components, excellent retrievals were still obtained as long as the refractive indices of the actual aerosol model and the candidate components were similar. This underscores the importance of component candidates having realistic indices of refraction in the various size ranges for application of the method. The examples presented all focus on the multiangle imaging spectroradiometer; however, the results should be as valid for data obtained by the use of high-altitude airborne sensors.
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