Abstract

After the volcanic eruption of Mt. Pinatubo the degree of polarization of skylight during twilight over Beijing was monitored with a polarimeter aimed at the local zenith. We analyze the effect of changes in the scattering coefficient of atmospheric aerosols for the case of multiple scattering on skylight polarization at the zenith and then discuss the evolution of skylight polarization over Beijing during the posteruption period. As a reference and for comparison we also discuss the evolution of the aerosol optical depth retrieved from the combination of skylight polarization and backscattering ratio measured by the polarimeter and a lidar for the period beginning with the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo through the end of 1993. The contributions of atmospheric aerosols at different altitudes to the ground-observed twilight polarization depend on the solar zenith angle. For larger solar zenith angles, the skylight polarization is mostly sensitive to aerosol variations in the upper layer that range from 15 to 30 km. The twilight polarization at the zenith from June 1991 to mid-1994 shows different features for three periods: (1) From October 1991 to February 1992, volcanic dust traveled to mid-latitudes, and the degree of polarization decreased substantially. (2) From February 1992 to November 1993, volcanic dust was dispersed the minimum degree of polarization at the solar zenith angle of 93.5° disappeared and the maximum increased. In addition, polarization for solar zenith angles less than 90° also increased. (3) From November 1993 to May 1994, most of the volcanic dust had fallen off, the atmosphere was restored to the background state, and the skylight polarization approached the preeruption condition.

© 1997 Optical Society of America

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