Numerical study on the along-track interferometric radar imaging mechanism of oceanic surface currents

Roland Romeiser, Donald R. Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

209 Scopus citations


The phase information in along-track interferometric synthetic aperture radar (along-track INSAR, ATI) images is a measure of the Doppler shift of the backscattered signal and thus of the line-of-sight velocity of the scatterers. It can be exploited for oceanic surface current measurements from aircraft or spacecraft. However, as already discussed in previous publications, the mean Doppler frequency of the radar backscatter from the ocean is not exclusively determined by the mean surface current, but it includes contributions associated with surface wave motion. In this paper, we present an efficient new model for the simulation of Doppler spectra and ATI signatures. The model is based on Bragg scattering theory in a composite surface model approach. We show that resulting Doppler spectra are consistent with predictions of an established model based on fundamental electrodynamic expressions, while computation times are reduced by more than one order of magnitude. This can be a key advantage with regard to operational applications of ATI. Based on model calculations for two simple current fields and various wind conditions and radar configurations, we study theoretical possibilities and limitations of oceanic current measurements by ATI. We find that best results can be expected from ATI systems operated at high microwave frequencies like 10 GHz (X band), high incidence angles like 60°, low platform altitude/speed ratios, and vertical (VV) polarization. The ATI time lag should be chosen long enough to obtain measurable phase differences, but much shorter than the decorrelation time of the backscattered field.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)446-458
Number of pages13
JournalIEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing
Issue number1 II
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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