Surface Water Classification and Monitoring using Polarimetric Synthetic Aperture Radar
Surface water classification using synthetic aperture radar (SAR) is an established practice for monitoring flood hazards due to the high temporal and spatial resolution it provides. Surface water change is a dynamic process that varies both spatially and temporally, and can occur on various scales resulting in significant impacts on affected areas. Small-scale flooding hazards, caused by beaver dam failure, is an example of surface water change, which can impact nearby infrastructure and ecosystems. Assessing these hazards is essential to transportation and infrastructure maintenance. With current satellite missions operating in multiple polarizations, spatio-temporal resolutions, and frequencies, a comprehensive comparison between SAR products for surface water monitoring is necessary. In this thesis, surface water extent models derived from high resolution single-polarization TerraSAR-X (TSX) data, medium resolution dual-polarization TSX data and low resolution quad-polarization RADARSAT-2 (RS-2) data are compared. There exists a compromise between acquiring SAR data with a high resolution or high information content. Multi-polarization data provides additional phase and intensity information, which makes it possible to better classify areas of flooded vegetation and wetlands. These locations are often where fluctuations in surface water occur and are essential for understanding dynamic underlying processes. However, often multi-polarized data is acquired at a low resolution, which cannot image these zones effectively. High spatial resolution, single-polarization TSX data provides the best model of open water. However, these single-polarization observations have limited information content and are affected by shadow and layover errors. This often hinders the classification of other land cover types. The dual-polarization TSX data allows for the classification of flooded vegetation, but classification is less accurate compared to the quad-polarization RS-2 data. The RS-2 data allows for the discrimination of open water, marshes/fields and forested areas. However, the RS-2 data is less applicable to small scale surface water monitoring (e.g. beaver dam failure), due to its low spatial resolution. By understanding the strengths and weaknesses of available SAR technology, an appropriate product can be chosen for a specific target application involving surface water change. This research benefits the eventual development of a space-based monitoring strategy over longer periods.