Along-track focusing of airborne radar sounding data from west antarctica for improving basal reflection analysis and layer detection

Matthew E. Peters, Donald D. Blankenship, Sasha P. Carter, Scott D. Kempf, Duncan A. Young, John W. Holt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

114 Scopus citations


This paper presents focused synthetic aperture radar (SAR) processing of airborne radar sounding data acquired with the High-Capability Radar Sounder system at 60 MHz. The motivation is to improve basal reflection analysis for water detection and to improve layer detection and tracking. The processing and reflection analyses are applied to data from Kamb Ice Stream, West Antarctica. The SAR processor correlates the radar data with reference echoes from subsurface point targets. The references are 1-D responses limited by the pulse nadir footprint or 2-D responses that include echo tails. Unfocused SAR and incoherent integration are included for comparison. Echoes are accurately preserved from along-track slopes up to about 0.5° for unfocused SAR, 3° for 1-D correlations, and 10° for 2-D correlations. The noise/clutter levels increase from unfocused SAR to 1-D and 2-D correlations, but additional gain compensates at the basal interface. The basal echo signal-to-noise ratio improvement is typically about 5 dB, and up to 10 dB for 2-D correlations in rough regions. The increased noise degrades the clarity of internal layers in the 2-D correlations, but detection of layers with slopes greater than 3° is improved. Reflection coefficients are computed for basal water detection, and the results are compared for the different processing methods. There is a significant increase in the detected water from unfocused SAR to 1-D correlations, indicating that substantial basal water exists on moderately sloped interfaces. Very little additional water is detected from the 2-D correlations. The results from incoherent integration are close to the focused SAR results, but the noise/clutter levels are much greater.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2725-2736
Number of pages12
JournalIEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2007


  • Antarctica
  • Focused synthetic aperture radar (SAR)
  • Ice sheets
  • Ice-sounding radar
  • Subsurface detection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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