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Sensitivity of radar backscatter to desert surface roughness

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Synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data have proved useful in remote sensing studies of deserts, enabling different surfaces to be discriminated by differences in roughness properties. Roughness is characterized in SAR backscatter models using the standard deviation of surface heights (σ), correlation length ( L ) and autocorrelation function (ρ(ξ)). Previous research has suggested that these parameters are of limited use for characterizing surface roughness, and are often unreliable due to the collection of too few roughness profiles, or under‐sampling in terms of resolution or profile length ( L p ). This paper reports on work aimed at establishing the effects of L p and sampling resolution on SAR backscatter estimations and site discrimination. Results indicate significant relationships between the average roughness parameters and L p , but large variability in roughness parameters prevents any clear understanding of these relationships. Integral equation model simulations demonstrate limited change with L p and under‐estimate backscatter relative to SAR observations. However, modelled and observed backscatter conform in pattern and magnitude for C‐band systems but not for L‐band data. Variation in surface roughness alone does not explain variability in site discrimination. Other factors (possibly sub‐surface scattering) appear to play a significant role in controlling backscatter characteristics at lower frequencies.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: School of Geography, The University of Nottingham, Nottingham NG7 2RD, UK 2: Department of Geography, University of Reading, Whiteknights, Reading RG6 6AB, UK

Publication date: 2006-04-20

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