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Deals with multitemporal sequences of synthetic aperture radar (SAR) images with regions possibly affected by step reflectivity patterns of change. Specifically, it addresses the problems of detecting a temporal step pattern with small reflectivity change against a constant pattern and of estimating the transition instant for the step. The statistically optimized signal processing techniques proposed in this work are most appropriate for the new generation of SAR systems with high revisit time that are currently under development. We propose two different techniques, based on the maximum likelihood (ML) approach, that make different use of prior knowledge on the radar cross section (RCS) levels of the searched pattern. They process the whole sequence to achieve optimal discrimination capability between regions affected and not affected by a step change and optimal estimation accuracy for the step transition instant. The first technique (known step pattern (KSP)-detector) assumes complete knowledge of the RCS levels of the searched pattern of change, while the second one (USP-detector) is based on the assumption of totally unknown step pattern.