Rayleigh's scattering law

From Glossary of Meteorology



Rayleigh's scattering law

(Also called Rayleigh scattering.) An approximate law of scattering of electromagnetic waves by molecules and particles small compared with the wavelength of the illumination at wavelengths for which absorption is sufficiently small.

According to this law, first derived in 1871 by Lord Rayleigh using simple dimensional arguments, scattering in all directions by an object is inversely proportional to the fourth power of the wavelength of the illumination. Scattering of sunlight by air molecules does not obey this law exactly, although it is a good approximation. Rayleigh's scattering law also predicts that scattering by a particle is proportional to the square of its volume.
Compare Mie theory.

Young, A. T. 1982. Phys. Today. Jan., 2–8.


Copyright 2022 American Meteorological Society (AMS). For permission to reuse any portion of this work, please contact [email protected]. Any use of material in this work that is determined to be “fair use” under Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act (17 U.S. Code § 107) or that satisfies the conditions specified in Section 108 of the U.S.Copyright Act (17 USC § 108) does not require AMS’s permission. Republication, systematic reproduction, posting in electronic form, such as on a website or in a searchable database, or other uses of this material, except as exempted by the above statement, require written permission or a license from AMS. Additional details are provided in the AMS Copyright Policy statement.