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CHAPTER 9:

Active and Passive


Microwave RS
REFERENCE: Remote Sensing
of the Environment
John R. Jensen (2007)
Second Edition
Pearson Prentice Hall

Passive Remote Sensing

Passive remote sensing systems


record electromagnetic energy that
was reflected (e.g., blue, green,
red, and near-infrared light) or
emitted (e.g., thermal infrared
energy) from the surface of the
E
Earth.
h

SSM/I Passive Microwave Radiometer Image of


the Amazon Barin Obtained at a Frequency of
85 GHz with Vertical Polarization

Active Remote Sensing

There are also active remote sensing systems that are


not dependent on the Suns electromagnetic energy or
the thermal properties of the Earth.
Active remote sensors create their own electromagnetic
energy that
1) is transmitted from the sensor toward the terrain
(and is largely unaffected by the atmosphere),
2) interacts with the terrain producing a backscatter of
energy, and
3) is recorded by the remote sensors receiver.

Active Remote Sensing


The most widely used active remote sensing systems
include:
active
acti e microwave
mic o a e (RADAR),
(RADAR) which
hich is based on the
transmission of long-wavelength microwaves (e.g., 3
25 cm) through the atmosphere and then recording the
amount of energy back-scattered from the terrain;
LIDAR, which is based on the transmission of
relatively short-wavelength laser light (e.g., 0.90 m)
and then recording
g the amount of light
g
back-scattered
from the terrain; and
SONAR, which is based on the transmission of sound
waves through a water column and then recording the
amount of energy back-scattered from the bottom or
from objects within the water column.

Sending and Receiving a


Pulse of Microwave EMR System Components
The discussion is based initially on the
system components and functions of a
real aperture side-looking airborne
radar (SLAR).
The di
Th
discussion
i
then
th
expands
d to
t
include synthetic aperture radars
(SAR) that have improved
capabilities.

Side-looking Airborne
SideRADAR (SLAR) System

antenna

a.

Pulse
Generator

Transmitter

CRT Display or
Digital Recorder

transmitted pulse

Duplexer
sends and
receives
Receiver

backscattered pulse

antenna

b.

SLAR Data of Puerto Rico

http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/of00-006/htm/slar.htm

Sending and Receiving a


Pulse of Microwave EMR System Components
The pulse of electromagnetic radiation sent out by the
transmitter through the antenna is of a specific wavelength
and duration (i.e., it has a pulse length measured in
microseconds, msec).
The wavelengths are much longer than visible, nearinfrared, mid-infrared, or thermal infrared energy used in
other remote sensing systems. Therefore, microwave energy
is usually measured in centimeters rather than micrometers.
micrometers
The unusual names associated with the radar wavelengths
(e.g., K, Ka, Ku, X, C, S, L, and P) are an artifact of the
original secret work on radar remote sensing when it was
customary to use the alphabetic descriptor instead of the
actual wavelength or frequency.

Active Microwave (RADAR)


Commonly Use Frequencies
Microwave Bands
10 GHz
1 GHz
0.2 m

1.0 m

Visible Middle-IR
UV

Near-infrared

10 m
Thermalinfrared

1 mm

1 cm

1m

10 cm

Ka K u X C S

L P

RADAR Wavelengths and Frequencies


used in Active Microwave Remote
Sensing Investigations
Band Designations
(common wavelengths
Wavelength
Frequency
shown in parentheses)
in cm
in GHz
_______________________________________________
K
1.18 - 1.67
26.5 to 18.0
0.75 - 1.18
40.0 to 26.5
Ka (0.86 cm)
1.67 - 2.4
18.0 to 12.5
Ku
X (3.0 and 3.2 cm)
2.4 - 3.8
12.5 - 8.0
C (7.5, 6.0 cm)
3.8 - 7.5
8.0 - 4.0
S (8.0, 9.6, 12.6 cm)
7.5 - 15.0
4.0 - 2.0
L (23.5, 24.0, 25.0 cm)
15.0 - 30.0
2.0 - 1.0
P (68.0 cm)
30.0 - 100
1.0 - 0.3

SIR-C/XSIRC/X-SAR
Images of a
Portion of
Rondonia,
Brazil,
Obtained on
April 10, 1994

Primary Advantages of RADAR


Remote Sensing of the Environment
Active microwave energy penetrates clouds and can be an
all-weather remote sensing system.
system
Synoptic views of large areas, for mapping at 1:25,000 to
1:400,000; cloud-shrouded countries may be imaged.
Coverage can be obtained at user-specified times, even at
night.
Permits
e
s imaging
ag g a
at s
shallow
a o look
oo angles,
a g es, resulting
esu
g in d
different
e e
perspectives that cannot always be obtained using aerial
photography.
Senses in wavelengths outside the visible and infrared regions
of the electromagnetic spectrum, providing information on
surface roughness, dielectric properties, and moisture
content.

Secondary Advantages of RADAR


Remote Sensing of the Environment
May penetrate vegetation, sand, and surface layers of snow.
Has its own illumination,, and the angle
g of illumination can be controlled.
Enables resolution to be independent of distance to the object, with the
size of a resolution cell being as small as 1 x 1 m.
Images can be produced from different types of polarized energy (HH,
HV, VV, VH).
May operate simultaneously in several wavelengths (frequencies) and
thus has multi-frequency potential.
Can measure ocean wave properties, even from orbital altitudes.
Can produce overlapping images suitable for stereoscopic viewing and
radargrammetry.
Supports interferometric operation using two antennas for 3-D mapping,
and analysis of incident-angle signatures of objects.

azimuth flight direction

nadir

near and
far range
p
depression
angles,

azimuth flight
direction
altitude
above
ground
level, H

look direction

of mic

rowav
e

energy

g
ran

on

cti

ire

kd

oo
el

range (near and far)

pulse
near and
far range
iincidence
id
angles,

depression angle ()

n
nadir

far range

Radar
Nomenclature

near range

flightline ground track

incidence angle ()
altitude aboveground-level, H
polarization

RADAR
logic

Azimuth Direction
The aircraft travels in a straight line that is
called the azimuth flight direction.
direction
Pulses of active microwave electromagnetic
energy illuminate strips of the terrain at right
angles (orthogonal) to the aircrafts
direction of travel, which is called the range or
look direction.
The terrain illuminated nearest the aircraft in
the line of sight is called the near-range. The
farthest point of terrain illuminated by the pulse
of energy is called the far-range.

Range Direction
The range or look direction for any radar image is
the direction of the radar illumination that is at
right angles to the direction the aircraft or
spacecraft is traveling.
Generally, objects that trend (or strike) in a
direction that is orthogonal (perpendicular) to the
range or look direction are enhanced much more
than those objects in the terrain that lie parallel
to the look direction. Consequently, linear
features that appear dark or are imperceptible in
a radar image using one look direction may
appear bright in another radar image with a
different look direction.

Look
Direction

a.
X - band, HH polarization

b.
X - band, HH polarization

look direction

look direction

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Depression Angle
The depression angle () is the angle between a
horizontal plane extending out from the aircraft
fuselage and the electromagnetic pulse of energy
from the antenna to a specific point on the
ground.
The depression angle within a strip of
illuminated terrain varies from the near-range
depression angle to the far-range
far range depression
angle. The average depression angle of a radar
image is computed by selecting a point midway
between the near and far-range in the image
strip. Summaries of radar systems often only
report the average depression angle.

Incident Angle
The incident angle () is the angle between the
radar pulse of EMR and a line perpendicular to the
Earths surface where it makes contact. When the
terrain is flat, the incident angle () is the
complement ( = 90 - g) of the depression angle
(). If the terrain is sloped, there is no
relationship between depression angle and
incident angle. The incident angle best describes
the relationship between the radar beam and
surface
f
slope.
l
Many mathematical radar studies assume the
terrain surface is flat (horizontal) therefore, the
incident angle is assumed to be the complement
of the depression angle.

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Polarization
Unpolarized energy vibrates in all possible
directions perpendicular to the direction of
travel.
Radar antennas send and receive polarized
energy. This means that the pulse of energy
is filtered so that its electrical wave
vibrations are only in a single plane that is
perpendicular to the direction of travel. The
pulse of electromagnetic energy sent out by
the antenna may be vertically or horizontally
polarized.

Polarization

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Polarization

a.
Ka - band, HH polarization

look direction

b.
Ka - band, HV polarization

Polarization
The transmitted
Th
t
itt d pulse
l
off electromagnetic
l t
ti
energy interacts with the terrain and some
of it is back-scattered at the speed of light
toward the aircraft or spacecraft where it
once again must pass through a filter. If the
antenna accepts the back-scattered energy,
it is recorded.
recorded Various types of backscattered polarized energy may be recorded
by the radar.

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Polarization
It is possible to:
send vertically polarized energy and receive
only vertically polarized energy (designated VV),
send horizontal and receive horizontally
polarized energy (HH),
send horizontal and receive vertically polarized
energy (HV), or
send vertical and receive horizontally polarized
energy (VH).

Polarization
HH and VV configurations produce
like-polarized radar imagery.
HV and VH configurations produce
cross-polarized imagery.

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Slant-range versus
SlantGround--Range Geometry
Ground
Radar imagery has a different geometry than that
produced
d
db
by mostt conventional
ti
l remote
t sensor systems,
t
such as cameras, multispectral scanners or area-array
detectors. Therefore, one must be very careful when
attempting to make radargrammetric measurements.
Uncorrected radar imagery is displayed in what is called
slant-range geometry, i.e., it is based on the actual
distance from the radar to each of the respective features
in the scene.
It is possible to convert the slant-range display into the
true ground-range display on the x-axis so that features in
the scene are in their proper planimetric (x,y) position
relative to one another in the final radar image.

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RADAR Resolution
To determine the spatial resolution at any point
in a radar image, it is necessary to compute the
resolution in two dimensions: the range and
azimuth resolutions. Radar is in effect a ranging
device that measures the distance to objects in
the terrain by means of sending out and
receiving pulses of active microwave energy.
The range resolution in the across-track
direction is proportional to the length of the
microwave pulse. The shorter the pulse length,
the finer the range resolution. Pulse length is a
function of the speed of light (c) multiplied by
the duration of the transmission (t).

Range Resolution
The range resolution (Rr) at any point between the near
and far-range of the illuminated strip can be computed if
the depression angle () of the sensor at that location
and
d th
the pulse
l
length
l
th () are k
known. It is
i possible
ibl to
t
convert pulse length into distance by multiplying it times
the speed of light (c = 3 x 108 m sec-1). The resulting
distance is measured in the slant-range previously
discussed. Because we want to know the range
resolution in the ground-range (not the slant-range) it is
necessary to convert slant-range to ground-range by
dividing the slant
slant-range
range distance by the cosine of the
depression angle (). Therefore, the equation for
computing the range resolution is:
Rr =

x c
__________
2 cos

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Range
Resolution
Rr =

x c
__________
2 cos

Azimuth Resolution
Thus far we have only identified the length in
meters of an active microwave resolution
element at a specific depression angle and
pulse length in the range (across-track)
direction. To know both the length and width
of the resolution element, we must also
compute the width of the resolution element
in the direction the aircraft or spacecraft is
flying the azimuth direction.

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Azimuth Resolution
Azimuth resolution (Ra) is determined by computing the
width of the terrain strip that is illuminated by the radar
beam.
Real aperture active microwave radars produce a lobeshaped beam which is narrower in the near-range and
spreads out in the far-range. Basically, the angular beam
width is directly proportional to the wavelength of the
transmitted pulse of energy, i.e., the longer the
wavelength, the wider the beam width, and the shorter the
wavelength, the narrower the beam width. Therefore, in
real aperture (brute force) radars a shorter wavelength
pulse will result in improved azimuth resolution.
Unfortunately, the shorter the wavelength, the poorer the
atmospheric and vegetation penetration capability.

Azimuth Resolution
Fortunately, the beam width is also inversely
proportional to antenna length (L).
(L) This means that the
longer the radar antenna, the narrower the beam width
and the higher the azimuth resolution. The relationship
between wavelength () and antenna length (L) is
summarized below, which can be used to compute the
azimuth resolution:
Ra =

S x
___________
L

where S is the slant-range distance to the point of


interest.

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Azimuth
Resolution
Ra =

S x
___________
L

RADAR Relief Displacement, Image


Foreshortening, and Shadowing
Geometric distortions exist in almost
all radar imagery, including :
foreshortening,
layover
layover, and
shadowing.

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Forshortening

Forshortening

a.

C-band ERS-1
depression angle =67
look angle = 23

c.

X - band

b.

look direction d.

look direction
L-band JERS-1
depression angle =54
look angle = 36

Aerial Photograph

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Layover

Layover

Pasadena
N

L-band SIR-C (HH) look direction


July 20, 1995

21

Shadow

Shuttle Imaging Radar


(SIR--C) Image of Maui
(SIR

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RADAR Image Speckle


Speckle is a grainy salt-and-pepper pattern in
radar imagery present due to the coherent
nature of the radar wave,
wave which causes
random
constructive
and
destructive
interference, and hence random bright and
dark areas in a radar image. The speckle can
be reduced by processing separate portions of
an aperture and recombining these portions so
tthat
at interference
te e e ce does not
ot occu
occur. This
s p
process,
ocess,
called
multiple
looks
or
non-coherent
integration,
produces
a
more
pleasing
appearance, and in some cases may aid in
interpretation of the image but at a cost of
degraded resolution.

Number
of Looks
a.

1 - Look radar image

b.

4 - Look radar image

c.

16 - Look radar image

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Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR)


Systems
A major advance in radar remote sensing has been the
improvement in azimuth resolution through the
development of synthetic aperture radar (SAR) systems.
systems
Remember, in a real aperture radar system that the size of
the antenna (L) is inversely proportional to the size of the
angular beam width. Great improvement in azimuth
resolution could be realized if a longer antenna were used.
Engineers have developed procedures to synthesize a very
long antenna electronically. Like a brute force or real
aperture radar, a synthetic aperture radar also uses a
relatively small antenna (e.g., 1 m) that sends out a
relatively broad beam perpendicular to the aircraft. The
major difference is that a greater number of additional
beams are sent toward the object. Doppler principles are
then used to monitor the returns from all these additional
microwave pulses to synthesize the azimuth resolution to
become one very narrow beam.

Synthetic Aperture
Radar Systems
The Doppler principle states that the frequency
(pitch) of a sound changes if the listener and/or
source are in motion relative to one another.

An approaching train whistle will have an


increasingly
higher
frequency
pitch
as
it
approaches. This pitch will be highest when it is
directly perpendicular to the listener (receiver).
Thi is
This
i called
ll d the
th point
i t off zero Doppler.
D
l
A the
As
th train
t i
passes by, its pitch will decrease in frequency in
proportion to the distance it is from the listener
(receiver). This principle is applicable to all
harmonic wave motion, including the microwaves
used in radar systems.

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Synthetic
Aperture
Radar
(SAR)

pulses of
microwave energy
9
a.
8
7
6
5
4
object is a
3
constant distance
from the flightline
2
timen
1

c.

b.

timen+1

timen+2

interference signal
radar hologram
9

6.5

d.

6.5

timen+4

ti n+3
time
+3

e.

6.5

Synthetic
Aperture
Radar
(SAR)

25

radar
hologram

Creation
of the
RADAR
Image

coherent light
9

7 6.5 7

8 etc.

etc.

image of
object

Optical Image Correlation

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Fundamental Radar Equation


The fundamental radar equation is:
Pr = Pt x Gt

1
1
____ ____ Ar
4R2
4R2

where Pr is power received, Pt is the power transmitted


toward the target, Gt is the gain of the antenna in the
direction of the target, R is the range distance from the
transmitter to the target, is the effective backscatter
area of the target, and Ar is the area of the receiving
antenna.

Fundamental Radar
Equation
The modified fundamental radar equation is:
Pt x G2 x x 2
Pr = ________________
(4))3 x R4
(

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Radar Backscatter Coefficient,


Finally, it is the effects of terrain on the radar signal that
we are most interested in, i.e. the amount of radar crosssection , reflected back to the receiver,
section,
receiver per unit area a
on the ground. This is called the radar backscatter
coeffieient ( ) and is computed as :

=
a

The radar backscatter coefficient determines the


percentage of electro- magnetic energy reflected back to
the radar from within a resolution cell, e.g. 10 x 10 m.
The actual for a surface depends on a number of
terrain parameters like geometry, surface roughness,
moisture content, and the radar system parameters
(wavelength, depression angle, polarization, etc.).

Surface Roughness
Surface roughness is the terrain property that most
strongly influences the strength of the radar backscatter.
Wh
When
i t
interpreting
ti
aerial
i l photography
h t
h we often
ft
use the
th
terminology - rough (coarse), intermediate, or smooth
(fine) - to describe the surface texture characteristics. It
is possible to extend this analogy to the interpretation of
radar imagery if we keep in mind that the surface
roughness we are talking about is usually measured in
centimeters (i.e. the height of stones, size of leaves, or
length of branches in a tree) and not thousands of meters
as with mountains.
In radar imagery we are actually talking about microrelief surface roughness characteristics rather than
topographic relief.

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Surface Roughness
There is a relationship between the
wavelength of the radar (), the depression
angle (), and the local height of objects (h in
cm) found within the resolution cell being
illuminated by microwave energy. It is called
the modified Rayleigh criteria and can be
predict what the earth's surface will
used to p
look like in a radar image if we know the
surface roughness characteristics and the
radar system parameters ( , ,h) mentioned.

Surface
Roughness in
RADAR Imagery
Expected
surface
roughness
back-scatter
from terrain
illuminated
with 3 cm
wavelength
microwave
energy with a
depression
angle of 45.

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Nile River Sudan


Space Shuttle
Color Infrared
Color-Infrared
Photograph

SIR C Color Composite:


SIR-C
Red = C-band HV
Green = L-band HV
Blue = L-band HH

surface scattering
f
from
the
h top
of the canopy

Types of Active
Microwave Surface
and Volume
Scattering that Take
Pl
Place
iin a
Hypothetical Pine
Forest Stand

volume scattering

surface and
volume scattering
from the ground

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Response of A Pine Forest Stand to X


X--, C
C-- and
L-band Microwave Energy

L-band
23.5 cm

a.

C-band
5.8 cm

b.

X-band
3 cm

c.

SIR-C/XSIRC/X-SAR
Images of a
Portion of
Rondonia,
Brazil,
Obtained on
April 10, 1994

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SIR-C/X-SAR Image of Greater Los Angeles, California

San
Fernando

San Diego
Freeway

The Cardinal
Effect is
Responsible for
the Pronounced
Bright Signature
of Portions of
Santa Monica
and San
Fernando in the
Space Shuttle
SIR--C/XSIR
C/X-SAR
Image of Los
Angeles, CA on
October 3,
3 1994.
1994

Santa
Monica

Pacific Ocean

Shuttle Imaging Radar


(SIR-C) Image of Los Angeles
(SIR-

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Aerial
Photography and
RADAR Imagery of
the Pentagon in
Washington, DC
a. Oblique Photograph of the Pentagon

b. Radar Image of the Pentagon

RADARSAT SAR

33

APPLICATIONS OF
SYNTHETIC APERTURE RADAR

X-BAND ANTENNA AT UPRM

RADARSAT

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Applications of SAR Data


in Puerto Rico
Physical Oceanography: Internal Waves

35

MOSAIC OF SAR IMAGES


OF PUERTO RICO

Synthetic Aperture Radar


Interferometry (InSAR
InSAR)
)
InSAR, or Synthetic Aperture Radar Interferometry is

another highly active research area in radar remote sensing.

Interferometry is the study of interference patterns created


by combining two sets of radar signals.

Two images are made of the same scene by two separated

antennas, either on the same platform, or the same antenna


may be utilized for repeat pass sensing.
Antennas separated
p
in the azimuth direction (p
(parallel
to the path of flight), measure motions on the surface
such as ocean currents.
Antennas separated in the range direction (orthogonal
to the path of flight) measure altitude differences.

Both measurements require some re-sampling of


one image to overlay the other accurately.

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SAR #2
SAR #1

(90 + - )

r2

r1
h

Geometric
Relationship
Between Two
SAR Systems
Used for
Interferometry
to Extract
Topographic
Information

KARAKAX, TIBET

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Interferometric map of

the Hector Mine


earthquake, shows the
ground displacement
along the radar line of
sight. A full
color cycle represents
10 cm of range
displacement. Gray
areas show zones of low
phase coherence that
have been masked
before
unwrapping.
thin solid lines within
the zones of dense
fringes are surface
breaks from azimuth
and range offsets

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