The estimation of the performance of electro-optical systems depends on the accuracy of the atmospheric models being used in the propagation prediction codes. In the present work we demonstrate that in a real atmosphere (above the surface layer) the turbulent field of passive scalar fluctuations can differ from Kolmogorov's model. From the spectrum of the intensity fluctuations of LIDAR signals scattered by aerosol concentration inhomogeneities, the behavior of atmospheric turbulence spectrum (power law exponent γ) is estimated. As follows from the experimental data the power law exponent of the turbulent spectra can be different from the case of purely Kolmogorov (γ=5/3). Also, results of lidar measurements of aerosol size distribution, volume, and number concentration at different heights in the Mediterranean region (Be'er-Sheva, Israel) and comparison with models (AFGL, MODTRAN) are presented. Implications can be important for optical communication, imaging through the atmosphere, and adaptive optics.© (2005) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.