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Ronald C. Henry; Field studies of color perception in the natural environment. Journal of Vision 2002;2(10):65. doi: 10.1167/2.10.65.
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The Clean Air Act protects visibility in national parks and wilderness areas. Effective strategies to protect and improve visibility depend on accurate models of the effect of sources of air pollution on haze and the perception of scenic vistas seen through the haze. Development of reliable models depends on the available observational data. Unfortunately, the psychophysics of color perception through atmospheric haze has been little studied in the natural environment. Over the years, three field studies of the relationship between atmospheric haze and perception of color have been carried out at the Grand Canyon National Park, the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, and in southern California (just this summer). Some of the problems of doing a visibility field study are described. Qualitatively, these studies show that the hue of a target seen through haze is constant as the haze increases even though the light coming from the target becomes blue due to the effect of light scattered by the haze. The colorfulness decreases exponentially as the optical depth of the haze increases. These results are discussed quantitatively in terms of the classical Metelli color scission formulation of transparency modified for atmospheric visibility and also in terms of recent laboratory work that relates transparency perception and Michelson contrast and convergence in a color space
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