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Assessment of soil moisture effects on L-band radar interferometry

Zwieback, Simon, Hensley, Scott, Hajnsek, Irena
Remote sensing of environment 2015 v.164 pp. 77-89
crops, data collection, deformation, interferometry, radar, remote sensing, soil water, vegetation
Differential SAR interferometry, a popular technique for measuring displacements of the Earth's surface, is potentially influenced by changes in soil moisture. Different mechanisms for this impact have been proposed, but its magnitude, sign and even presence remain poorly understood. In this study the dependence of the phase, the coherence magnitude as well as the phase triplets on soil moisture was inferred empirically with regression techniques: this was done for two airborne data sets at L-band. The phase dependence was significant (at a significance level of 0.05) for more than 70% of the fields at HH polarization, its sign corresponding to an increase in optical path upon wetting, and the magnitude of the associated deformation commonly exceeding 2cm for a change in soil moisture of 20%. This trend was similar in both campaigns, whereas the prevalence of soil moisture-related decorrelation differs. These results are only consistent with a dielectric origin of the soil moisture effects, and not with soil swelling or the penetration depth hypothesis. Changes in vegetation impact the phase depending on the crop and polarization, with the vegetation influence at VV being more pronounced for the agricultural crops present in the study area.