The spreading of partially coherent beams propagating through atmospheric turbulence is studied by use of the coherent-mode representation of the beams. Specifically, we consider partially coherent Gaussian Schell-model beams entering the atmosphere, and we examine the spreading of each coherent mode, represented by a Hermite–Gaussian function, on propagation. We find that in atmospheric turbulence the relative spreading of higher-order modes is smaller than that of lower-order modes, whereas the relative spreading of all order modes is the same as in free space. This modal behavior successfully explains why under certain circumstances partially coherent beams are less affected by atmospheric turbulence than are fully spatially coherent laser beams.
© 2003 Optical Society of America
Original Manuscript: November 19, 2002
Revised Manuscript: February 14, 2003
Manuscript Accepted: February 14, 2003
Published: June 1, 2003
Tomohiro Shirai, Aristide Dogariu, and Emil Wolf, "Mode analysis of spreading of partially coherent beams propagating through atmospheric turbulence," J. Opt. Soc. Am. A 20, 1094-1102 (2003)