A major simplification in many optical ocean calculations is that the plane parallel medium (1-D) approximation is usually sufficient because of the large extent of the solar radiation field and the relatively layered structure of seawater. In this approximation the polar and azimuthal angle variables even can be uncoupled.1 Traditional methods of solving radiative transfer problems for seawater include Monte Carlo, invariant imbedding, and discrete ordinates (both traditional, and so-called analytic in which the angle dependence of the radiation is represented in the form of an eigenmode expansion).
For an analysis of coupled atmosphere-ocean systems, Fresnel reflection effects cause the air-water boundary condition to be more complicated than that for traditional neutral particle transport theory. Waves induced by wind and tidal motion also create difficulties when describing transfer across the interface. Furthermore, near the surface, polarization effects sometimes are important.
A brief review of the classical procedures for solving ocean optics problems will be presented, followed by a discussion of some challenges remaining for the development of seawater optical monitoring systems.
1. S. Chandrasekhar, Radiative Transfer (Dover, New York, 1960), section 48.1.
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