Polarization-sensitive detection of elastic backscattered light is useful for detection of cloud phase and depolarizing aerosols. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Program has deployed micropulse lidar (MPL) for over a decade, but without polarized detection. Adding an actively-controlled liquid crystal retarder provides the capability to identify depolarizing particles by alternately transmitting linearly and circularly polarized light. This represents a departure from established techniques, which transmit exclusively linear polarization or exclusively circular polarization. Mueller matrix calculations yield simple relationships between the well-known linear depolarization ratio δlinear, the circular depolarization ratio δcirc, and this MPL depolarization ratio δMPL.
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