Digital images of overcast skies as seen from the earth’s surface open new windows onto the angular details of overcast colors and visible-wavelength spectra. After calibration with a spectroradiometer, a commercial CCD camera equipped with a fisheye lens can produce colorimetrically accurate all-sky maps of overcast spectra. Histograms and azimuthally averaged curves of the resulting chromaticities show consistent, but unexpected, patterns in time-averaged overcast colors. Although widely used models such as LOWTRAN7 and MODTRAN4 cannot explain these characteristic patterns, a simple semiempirical model based on the radiative transfer equation does, and it provides insights into the visible consequences of absorption and scattering both within and beneath overcasts.
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