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Journal of the Optical Society of America A

Journal of the Optical Society of America A


  • Editor: Stephen A. Burns
  • Vol. 24, Iss. 1 — Jan. 1, 2007
  • pp: 132–138

Polarization of “water-skies” above arctic open waters: how polynyas in the ice-cover can be visually detected from a distance

Ramón Hegedüs, Susanne Åkesson, and Gábor Horváth  »View Author Affiliations

JOSA A, Vol. 24, Issue 1, pp. 132-138 (2007)

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The foggy sky above a white ice-cover and a dark water surface (permanent polynya or temporary lead) is white and dark gray, phenomena called the “ice-sky” and the “water-sky,” respectively. Captains of icebreaker ships used to search for not-directly-visible open waters remotely on the basis of the water sky. Animals depending on open waters in the Arctic region may also detect not-directly-visible waters from a distance by means of the water sky. Since the polarization of ice-skies and water-skies has not, to our knowledge, been studied before, we measured the polarization patterns of water-skies above polynyas in the arctic ice-cover during the Beringia 2005 Swedish polar research expedition to the North Pole region. We show that there are statistically significant differences in the angle of polarization between the water-sky and the ice-sky. This polarization phenomenon could help biological and man-made sensors to detect open waters not directly visible from a distance. However, the threshold of polarization-based detection would be rather low, because the degree of linear polarization of light radiated by water-skies and ice-skies is not higher than 10%.

© 2006 Optical Society of America

OCIS Codes
(010.1290) Atmospheric and oceanic optics : Atmospheric optics
(110.2960) Imaging systems : Image analysis
(120.5410) Instrumentation, measurement, and metrology : Polarimetry
(280.1310) Remote sensing and sensors : Atmospheric scattering
(330.7310) Vision, color, and visual optics : Vision

ToC Category:
Atmospheric and Oceanic Optics

Original Manuscript: March 17, 2006
Revised Manuscript: June 29, 2006
Manuscript Accepted: July 19, 2006

Virtual Issues
Vol. 2, Iss. 2 Virtual Journal for Biomedical Optics

Ramón Hegedüs, Susanne Åkesson, and Gábor Horváth, "Polarization of 'water-skies' above arctic open waters: how polynyas in the ice-cover can be visually detected from a distance," J. Opt. Soc. Am. A 24, 132-138 (2007)

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