Radar polarimetry and interferometry for remote sensing of boreal forest

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


Forest biomass is a key parameter of the global biosphere which is linked to many fields of research. Modeling addressing climate, ecology, and economics as well as many other prediction frameworks require an accurate assessment of global forest biomass. Methods for producing forest information are rapidly developing and traditional forest inventory by visual estimation has been gradually replaced by the use of airborne and spaceborne instruments. Nevertheless, the estimation of biomass on a global basis including boreal, temperate, and tropical forests, is still a major challenge. Among other spaceborne sensors, synthetic aperture radar (SAR) is one of the most suitable tools for large scale mapping and it has also been often used for forest mapping. However, commonly used backscattering intensity based methods do not provide a satisfactory accuracy for biomass estimation; hence, the scientific radar community has been developing more accurate means based on advanced SAR imaging and analyzing techniques, such as SAR polarimetry and interferometry. The work within this thesis contributes to this effort specifically in the field of remote sensing with the emphasis on SAR polarimetry and interferometry for boreal forest applications. The study concentrates on three main topics: polarimetric SAR image analysis, retrieval of forest height by means of SAR interferometry, and modeling of radar backscattering from trees. The main contributions of this work include a new effective approach in polarimetric target decomposition, novel polarimetric visualization schemes, an improved interferometric tree height estimation method suitable for boreal forest, interferometric tree height estimation capability demonstration for X-band, a novel method for relating SAR measurements to single tree scattering modeling, and taking the scattering modeling from a pine tree to the single needle level with accurate field models. Furthermore, the forest height estimation scheme proposed in this work potentially enables tree height estimation with existing spaceborne interferometric X-band SAR systems. The proposed method uses an interferometric coherence model and a ground elevation model to produce accurate tree height maps from single polarization interferometric SAR data. The method is demonstrated with airborne SAR measurements and will be tested in the near future with satellite data. Since tree height is related to forest biomass through tree allometry, tree height measurements from space would enable more accurate global forest biomass maps.
Translated title of the contributionRadar polarimetry and interferometry for remote sensing of boreal forest
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Hallikainen, Martti, Supervising Professor
Print ISBNs978-952-60-4872-7
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-4873-4
Publication statusPublished - 2012
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


  • radar
  • Synthetic Aperture Radar
  • SAR
  • SAR polarimetry
  • SAR interferometry
  • SAR polarimetric interferometry
  • InSAR
  • PolSAR
  • Pol-InSAR
  • boreal forest
  • scattering model
  • tree height
  • forest height
  • forest biomass


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