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In this paper, we investigate the ability of L-band synthetic aperture radar (SAR) systems to penetrate soils to retrieve information about subsurface wet structures. Our experiment site, the Pyla dune, is a bare sandy area allowing high radar penetration and known to have large wet subsurface structures (paleosoils) at varying depths. Buried paleosoils, which act as moisture tanks, are detectable with radar, since they present a high permittivity due to their water content. By analyzing airborne polarimetric SAR data, we established that a phase signature is correlated to the buried wet palesoils: a phase difference of 23° between the horizontal (HH) and vertical (VV) channels was clearly observed. It allows detection of the paleosoil down to a larger depth (5.2 m) than when only considering HH and HV amplitude signals (3.5 m). In order to confirm this result, field measurements were performed that led to the same observed phase difference. We could fit our observations to the semiempirical model proposed by Oh and Sarabandi, and we reproduced the observed phenomenon using a two-layer integral equation method (IEM) model of the Pyla dune, which was completed by finite-difference time-domain (FDTD) numerical simulations. We show that the soil moisture significantly influences the radar response in terms of phase difference between the copolarized modes. Our study also shows that the single-scattering IEM model reproduces the observed phase difference fairly well for a natural outdoor site when combined to FDTD simulation results. This phase signature could be used as a new tool to map subsurface moisture in arid regions.
Geoscience and Remote Sensing, IEEE Transactions on (Volume:42 , Issue: 8 )
Date of Publication: Aug. 2004