Discriminating between spherical and non-spherical scatterers with lidar using circular polarization: a theoretical study Conference Paper uri icon


  • For ground based observations, depolarization of lidar backscatter indicates that the scattering particles are non-spherical. This property provides a useful means to discriminate between ice particles (non-spherical) and water droplets (spherical) in clouds. However, for space based lidar measurements, backscatter from spherical water cloud particles is also depolarized due to multiple scattering. For the spaceborne lidar application, the discrimination between water and ice is not straightforward. An alternative method for water/ice discrimination that is less sensitive to multiple scattering is proposed in this study. The new approach is based on the differences in P44 (an element of the scattering phase matrix) at 180 scattering angle between spherical and non-spherical particles. By transmitting a circularly polarized beam from the lidar and resolving the rotational sense of the polarization in the receiver, discrimination between spherical and non-spherical scatterers can be accomplished even when multiple scattering occurs. When the incident beam is left-hand-circularly polarized, the circular component of backscatter by a non-spherical particle is weak and possibly left-handed, whereas backscatter by a spherical particle is significantly right-hand-circularly polarized. Monte Carlo simulations with full Stokes vector parameterizations indicate that multiple scattering does not affect the rotational sense of the backscatter polarization, making robust discrimination between spheres and non-spheres possible with this new circular polarization approach. Published by Elsevier Science Ltd.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Hu, Y. X., Yang, P., Lin, B., Gibson, G., & Hostetler, C.

citation count

  • 31

complete list of authors

  • Hu, YX||Yang, P||Lin, B||Gibson, G||Hostetler, C

publication date

  • June 2003