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Damage assessment in urban areas using post-earthquake airborne PolSAR imagery

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Synthetic aperture radar (SAR) has often been used in earthquake damage assessment due to its extreme versatility and almost all-weather, day-and-night capability. In this article, we demonstrate the potential to use only post-event, high-resolution airborne polarimetric SAR (PolSAR) imagery to estimate the damage level at the block scale. Intact buildings with large orientation angles have a similar scattering mechanism ┬áto collapsed buildings; they are all volume-scattering dominant and reflection asymmetric, which seriously hampers the process of damage assessment. In this article, we propose a new damage assessment method combining polarimetric and spatial texture information to eliminate this deficiency. In the proposed method, the normalized circular-pol correlation coefficient is used first to identify intact buildings aligned parallel with the flight direction of the radar. The ‘homogeneity’ feature of the grey-level co-occurrence matrix (GLCM) is then introduced to distinguish building patches with large orientation angles from the severely damaged class. Furthermore, a new damage assessment index is also introduced to handle the assessment at the level of the block scale. To demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed approach, the high-resolution airborne PolSAR imagery acquired after the earthquake that hit Yushu County, Qinghai Province of China, is investigated. By comparison with the damage validation map, the results confirm the validity of the proposed method and the advantage of further improving the assessment accuracy without external ancillary optical or SAR data.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: The State Key Laboratory of Information Engineering in Surveying, Mapping and Remote Sensing (LIESMARS), Wuhan University, Wuhan, Hubei, 430079, PR China

Publication date: December 20, 2013

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