Spectral properties of whitecaps are of importance for color ocean remote sensing and aerosol optical thickness probing from satellite-based instruments. They also influence planetary albedo and climate. In particular, whitecaps may affect the response of the climate system to changes in greenhouse gases and other atmospheric constituents. Several experimental measurements of whitecap spectral reflectance have been performed both in the surf zone and in the open ocean, which indicate that oceanic foam cannot be considered as a gray body (e.g., for satellite remote sensing techniques). This paper is devoted to the interpretation of experiments performed in terms of the radiative transfer theory. Only the case of a semi-infinite foam is studied in detail. However, results can be easily extended to the case of finite foamed media having large optical thickness. The model introduced is capable of explaining main features observed, like a sharp decrease of the foam spectral reflectance in the infrared as compared with the visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum and a high correlation of the foam reflectance R and the water absorption coefficient a. A simple method to retrieve the spectral dependence of a from the spectral foam reflectance R is proposed
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