Polarimetric decompositions of temperate wetlands at C-band

Brian Brisco, Frank Ahern, Sang Hoon Hong, Shimon Wdowinski, Kevin Murnaghan, Lori White, Donald K. Atwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


C-band SAR is well established as a useful sensor for water resources applications. It is commonly accepted that the backscatter from wetlands that consist of many emergent stems over open water (swamps and marshes) is dominated by a double-bounce scattering mechanism. However, recent observations with fully polarimetric data from Radarsat-2 over the extensive wetlands of the Everglades and numerous small wetlands in Ontario appear to be inconsistent with this interpretation of the backscatter physics. In this paper, we use several forms of polarimetric analysis and decomposition. All of these indicate that the backscatter from small marshes and swamps in Ontario is dominated by polarimetric characteristics normally attributed to the odd-bounce mechanism. This anomalous result might be explained as a consequence of changes in the double-bounce reflectance properties of vegetation as a function of the incidence angle. However, detailed electromagnetic backscatter modeling will be needed to provide a more complete and reliable understanding of the details of backscattering from wetlands with emergent vegetation. Additional observational and theoretical work will be required to document and understand the unusual results we report here. If these results are substantiated, the SAR community must re-interpret the generally accepted meanings of the popular decomposition variables, and introduce new terminology to describe them. This would lead to an improved understanding of the backscatter physics and better use of polarimetric SAR for wetland management applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7081506
Pages (from-to)3585-3594
Number of pages10
JournalIEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Applied Earth Observations and Remote Sensing
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015


  • Polarimetric radar
  • synthetic aperture radar (SAR)
  • water resources

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computers in Earth Sciences
  • Atmospheric Science


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