Obtaining accurate, precise and timely information about the local atmospheric turbulence and extinction conditions and aerosol/particulate content remains a difficult problem with incomplete solutions. It has important applications in areas such as optical and IR free-space communications, imaging systems performance, and the propagation of directed energy. The capability to utilize passive imaging data to extract parameters characterizing atmospheric turbulence and aerosol/particulate conditions would represent a valuable addition to the current piecemeal toolset for atmospheric sensing. Our research investigates an application of fundamental results from optical turbulence theory and aerosol extinction theory combined with recent advances in image-quality-metrics (IQM) and image-quality-assessment (IQA) methods. We have developed an algorithm which extracts important parameters used for characterizing atmospheric turbulence and extinction along the propagation channel, such as the refractive-index structure parameter C2n , the Fried atmospheric coherence width r0 , and the atmospheric extinction coefficient βext , from passive image data. We will analyze the algorithm performance using simulations based on modeling with turbulence modulation transfer functions. An experimental field campaign was organized and data were collected from passive imaging through turbulence of Siemens star resolution targets over several short littoral paths in Point Loma, San Diego, under conditions various turbulence intensities. We present initial results of the algorithm’s effectiveness using this field data and compare against measurements taken concurrently with other standard atmospheric characterization equipment. We also discuss some of the challenges encountered with the algorithm, tasks currently in progress, and approaches planned for improving the performance in the near future.