Phenomenology of Scattering Mechanisms in a Tropical Forest through Polarimetric SAR Tomography
Mariotti d'Alessandro, Mauro; Tebaldini, Stefano; Rocca, Fabio
Politecnico di Milano, ITALY

This paper aims at characterizing the scattering mechanisms occurring at the ground level in a tropical forest enlightened by a P-Band SAR. The analysis is carried out based on the multi-baseline, fully polarimetric, data set collected by ONERA over Paracou, French Guyana, in the frame of the ESA campaign TropiSAR. The favorable baseline distribution of this data set results in the possibility to remove most contributions from the vegetation layer by tomographic techniques, thus allowing the generation a new fully polarimetric Single Look Complex (SLC) SAR image relative to scattering contributions from the ground level only. Such a ground layer image is then analyzed by considering the variation of its polarimetric signature with respect to terrain local slope and Radar look angle. Two major conclusions are drawn: i) double bounce scattering from trunk-ground interactions is observed to be the dominant scattering mechanism at the ground level on flat terrains, whereas it rapidly tends to vanish as the topographic slope increases; ii) the characteristic parameter that rules trunk-ground scattering is not the tree height, but rather the available free path facing the tree, as a result of the presence of nearby trees, undulating topography, or understory preventing double bounce scattering from taking place whenever the ground bounce occurs too far away from the considered tree. The mean free path length resulting from the analysis of this data-set is found to be L~7 m. Finally, we discuss how the concept of free path length can be accounted for in simple terms by assuming an equivalent extinction model characterized by a variation along the horizontal dimension.