Publication Date

Fall 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Physics and Astronomy


Patrick Hamill


AERONET, Aerosol, discrimination, light scattering, Polarization

Subject Areas

Atmospheric sciences; Physics


Despite considerable efforts by many atmospheric scientists, the identification and classification of aerosols remain a big challenge. On the atmospheric scale, large surveys of aerosols rely heavily on light scattering. The degree of linear polarization (DLP) is sensitive to the size and index of refraction of the aerosol particles and may provide an accurate method for discriminating aerosol types. In this thesis, Mie scattering was implemented to yield both the parallel and perpendicular components of the scattered electric field. In a first set of results, the calculated DLP was used to reproduce measurements of DLP along a principal plane for several sites taken by the robotic network of sun-photometers, AERONET. The agreement of theory and experiment is excellent. Having verified this agreement, we calculated the DLP of the particle size distributions from four sites whose aerosols belong to four different types: urban-industrial, biomass, dust and mixed aerosol. The DLP of these types of aerosols was obtained and might constitute a basis for discrimination between aerosols. However, we did not find significant distinctions in the polarization curves of these sites, suggesting it would be difficult to discriminate aerosol types by polarization measurements alone. As a final analysis, we explored the sensitivity of the DLP to changes in the volume concentration distribution and the index of refraction.