Scattering of Light
by small particles and molecules in the atmosphere

Different from reflection, where radiation is deflected in one direction, some particles and molecules found in the atmosphere have the ability to scatter solar radiation in all directions. The particles/molecules which scatter light are called scatterers and can also include particulates made by human industry.

Selective scattering (or Rayleigh scattering) occurs when certain particles are more effective at scattering a particular wavelength of light. Air molecules, like oxygen and nitrogen for example, are small in size and thus more effective at scattering shorter wavelengths of light (blue and violet). The selective scattering by air molecules is responsible for producing our blue skies on a clear sunny day.

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Credits and Acknowledgments for WW2010.
Department of Atmospheric Sciences (DAS) at
the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.