Micropulse lidar (MPL) systems were used to measure aerosol properties during the Indian Ocean Experiment (INDOEX) 1999 field phase. Measurements were made from two platforms: the NOAA ship R/V Ronald H. Brown, and the Kaashidhoo Climate Observatory (KCO) in the Maldives. Sun photometers were used to provide aerosol optical depths (AOD) needed to calibrate the MPL. This study focuses on the height distribution and optical properties (at 523 nm) of aerosols observed during the campaign. The height of the highest aerosols (top height) was calculated and found to be below 4 km for most of the cruise. The marine boundary layer (MBL) top was calculated and found to be less than 1 km. MPL results were combined with air mass trajectories, radiosonde profiles of temperature and humidity, and aerosol concentration and optical measurements. Humidity varied from approximately 80% near the surface to 50% near the top height during the entire cruise. The average value and standard deviation of aerosol optical parameters were determined for characteristic air mass regimes. Marine aerosols in the absence of any continental influence were found to have an AOD of 0.05±0.03, an extinction-to-backscatter ratio (S ratio) of 33±6 sr, and peak extinction values around 0.05 km−1 (near the MBL top). The marine results are shown to be in agreement with previously measured and expected values. Polluted marine areas over the Indian Ocean, influenced by continental aerosols, had AOD values in excess of 0.2, S ratios well above 40 sr, and peak extinction values approximately 0.20 km−1 (near the MBL top). The polluted marine results are shown to be similar to previously published values for continental aerosols. Comparisons between MPL derived extinction near the ship (75 m) and extinction calculated at ship level using scattering measured by a nephelometer and absorption using a particle soot absorption photometer were conducted. The comparisons indicated that the MPL algorithm (using a constant S ratio throughout the lower troposphere) calculates extinction near the surface in agreement with the ship-level measurements only when the MBL aerosols are well mixed with aerosols above. Finally, a review of the MPL extinction profiles showed that the model of aerosol vertical extinction developed during an earlier INDOEX field campaign (at the Maldives) did not correctly describe the true vertical distribution over the greater Indian Ocean region. Using the average extinction profile and AOD obtained during marine conditions, a new model of aerosol vertical extinction was determined for marine atmospheres over the Indian Ocean. A new model of aerosol vertical extinction for polluted marine atmospheres was also developed using the average extinction profile and AOD obtained during marine conditions influenced by continental aerosols.