Atmospheric Effects

Effects of Atmosphere

When electromagnetic radiation travels through the atmosphere, it may be absorbed or scattered by the constituent particles of the atmosphere. Molecular absorption converts the radiation energy into excitation energy of the molecules. Scattering redistributes the energy of the incident beam to all directions. The overall effect is the removal of energy from the incident radiation. The various effects of absorption and scattering are outlined in the following sections.

Click here to read more about Atmospheric Absorption
Click here to read more about Atmospheric Scattering

Atmospheric Transmission Windows

Each type of molecule has its own set of absorption bands in various parts of the electromagnetic spectrum. As a result, only the wavelength regions outside the main absorption bands of the atmospheric gases can be used for remote sensing. These regions are known as the Atmospheric Transmission Windows.

The wavelength bands used in remote sensing systems are usually designed to fall within these windows to minimize the atmospheric absorption effects. These windows are found in the visible, near-infrared, certain bands in thermal infrared and the microwave regions.

Effects of Atmospheric Absorption on Remote Sensing Images

Atmospheric absorption affects mainly the visible and infrared bands. Optical remote sensing depends on solar radiation as the source of illumination. Absorption reduces the solar radiance within the absorption bands of the atmospheric gases. The reflected radiance is also attenuated after passing through the atmosphere. This attenuation is wavelength dependent. Hence, atmospheric absorption will alter the apparent
spectral signature of the target being observed.

Effects of Atmospheric Scattering on Remote Sensing Images

Atmospheric scatterring is important only in the visible and near infrared regions. Scattering of radiation by the constituent gases and aerosols in the atmosphere causes degradation of the remotely sensed images. Most noticeably, the solar radiation scattered by the atmosphere towards the sensor without first reaching the ground produces a hazy appearance of the image. This effect is particularly severe in the blue end of the visible spectrum due to the stronger Rayleigh Scattering for shorter wavelength radiation.

Furthermore, the light from a target outside the field of view of the sensor may be scattered into the field of view of the sensor. This effect is known as the adjacency effect. Near to the boundary between two regions of different brightness, the adjacency effect results in an increase in the apparent brightness of the darker region while the apparent brightness of the brighter region is reduced. Scattering also produces blurring of the targets in remotely sensed images due to spreading of the reflected radiation by scattering, resulting in a reduced resolution image.

Electromagnetic Waves Airborne Remote Sensing
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Please send comments/enquiries/suggestions about this tutorial to Dr. S. C. Liew at Copyright CRISP, 2001