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Detection of river/sea ice deformation using satellite interferometry: limits and potential

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In this paper, we present a study consisting of the application of radar interferometry for river/sea ice monitoring in inhabited regions and on commercial waterways. The sites studied are located in Canadian regions where ice jams constitute a common winter hazard that can cause extensive socio-economic damage and impose severe restrictions on ship traffic. ERS and Radarsat images were jointly used with traditional in situ observations to detect ice break-up in order to prevent ice jams and related problems. A coherence study served to define the synthetic aperture radar interferometry (InSAR) limits for river/sea ice dynamics monitoring. Other factors that also help to define the limits of InSAR technology for this application include the frequency of image acquisition, the minimum dimension of detected ice floes and the determination of appropriate ice types. Significant phase shifts were found for small ice floes of several hundred metres with ERS-tandem images. The analysis of the interferograms showed that it is possible to detect deformations in the ice shelf and to discriminate quantitatively the horizontal and vertical components of ice movement when the interferograms are combined with traditional observations such as meteorological data, water level, water flow and ice charts. The deformation estimated on a piece of fast river ice can be interpreted as the first sign of the ice break-up. On an estuary river that is a busy seaway, a qualitative interpretation of the interferograms served to highlight the interaction of river and tidal flows affecting the ice cover. We showed, in particular, the potential of radar interferometry and its integration with other techniques to help the authorities to prevent problems related to ice jams.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Centre de Recherche en Géomatique Université Laval G1K 7P4 Québec Canada 2: Bureau de Recherches Géologiques et Minières Marseille, 13 276 Cedex 9 France 3: Joint Research Centre of the European Commission Ispra, 21 020 Italy

Publication date: September 1, 2004

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