The microwave emissivity of relatively low-loss media such as snow, ice, frozen ground, and lunar soil is strongly influenced by fine-scale layering and by internal scattering. Radiometric data, however, are commonly interpreted using a model of emission from a homogeneous, dielectric halfspace whose emissivity derives exclusively from dielectric properties. Conclusions based upon these simple interpretations can be erroneous. Examples are presented showing that the emission from fresh or hardpacked snow over either frozen or moist soil is governed dominantly by the size distribution of ice grains in the snowpack. Similarly, the thickness of seasonally frozen soil and the concentration of rock clasts in lunar soil noticeably affect, respectively, the emissivities of northern latitude soils in winter and of the lunar regolith. Petrophysical data accumulated in support of the geophysical interpretation of microwave data must include measurements of not only dielectric properties, but also of geometric factors such as finescale layering and size distributions of grains, inclusions, and voids. ?? 1976 Birkha??user Verlag.