Analysis of the sources of variation in L-band backscatter from terrains with permafrost

Manabu Watanabe, Gaku Kadosaki, Yongwon Kim, Mamoru Ishikawa, Keiji Kushida, Yuki Sawada, Takeo Tadono, Masami Fukuda, Motoyuki Sato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Simultaneous field data collections and Advanced Land Observing Satellite/Phased Array type L-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (PALSAR) full polarimetry observations were performed in Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia) and Alaska (USA). Permafrost is present at the Alaska test sites. Backscattering copolarization (σ co-pol 0) values derived from the PALSAR data were compared with those calculated using the integrated equation method (IEM) model, a popular theoretical model describing surface scattering. PALSAR data taken in Ulaanbaatar matched the IEM model results to within a few decibels, whereas data taken in Alaska were 5 to 7 dB lower than those calculated using the IEM model. On the other hand, the σ co-pol 0VH 0) components estimated from the Oh model were well matched to the PALSAR data in both Ulaanbaatar and Alaska. Moisture levels of the sphagnum moss layer in Alaska were estimated to be about 10% while moisture levels of the underlying organic and mineral layers were 25% to 79%; the moisture values of the organic and mineral layers were factored into the IEM and Oh models. When surface moisture levels of 10% were assumed for Alaska ground conditions, the σ co-pol 0 values calculated using the IEM model and those derived from the PALSAR data were well matched. From these observations, we conclude that the sphagnum moss layer, which is a seasonally unfrozen layer that occurs above permafrost, plays an important role in radar backscattering processes in permafrost regions and is a main contributor to the σ co-pol 0 backscattering component; the underlying organic and mineral layers contribute mainly to the σ co-pol 0 backscattering component. A two-layer model was applied to the data from a test site in Alaska; the model described the co- and cross-polarization backscatter (σ 0) derived from PALSAR data with off-nadir angles of 21.5° and 34.3°.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5959203
Pages (from-to)44-54
Number of pages11
JournalIEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Jan


  • L-band synthetic aperture radar (SAR)
  • soil moisture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


Dive into the research topics of 'Analysis of the sources of variation in L-band backscatter from terrains with permafrost'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this