The underwater light field is an ever-changing environment. Surface waves induce variability in the radiance and the light's polarization. We examined the dependence of the polarization fluctuations associated with diffuse light (not including contribution from direct skylight) on the viewing zenith angle (30°, 70°, and 90°), solar zenith angle (23°–72°), depth of 0.5–, and light wavelength while observing within the azimuthal plane in the wind–wave direction. Polarization and radiance fluctuated with time. Light variability (presented by the coefficient of variation calculated over a series of fluctuations in the radiance and percent polarization, and by the standard deviation calculated over a series of fluctuations in the e-vector orientation) was highest at a viewing zenith angle of 70°, depended positively on the solar zenith angle, and decreased with depth at viewing zenith angles of 30° and 70°. Additionally, the variability of the percent polarization was significantly higher than that of the radiance. The temporal light fluctuations offer possibilities, such as enhancing the detection of transparent and reflecting objects; however, they set constraints on the optimal underwater polarization vision by both animals and by the use of instruments.
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