Doctoral defence: Tauri Tampuu “Synthetic Aperture Radar Interferometry as a tool for monitoring the dynamics of peatland surface”

On 23 August at 12:15 Tauri Tampuu will defend his doctoral thesis “Synthetic Aperture Radar Interferometry as a tool for monitoring the dynamics of peatland surface” for obtaining the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (in Geography).

Supervisors:
Associate Professor Ain Kull, University of Tartu
Assistant Professor Jaan Praks, Aalto University (Finland)
Senior Researcher Rivo Uiboupin, Tallinn University of Technology

Opponent:
Professor Ramon F. Hanssen, Delft University of Technology (The Netherlands)

Summary
Peatlands are significant in regard to climate change because peatlands may switch from being a net carbon sink to an emitter of greenhouse gases. The delicate carbon balance in peatlands is controlled by the peatland water table. Peatland soils contain globally nearly as much carbon as a half of what is currently in the atmosphere. Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) is an active microwave remote sensing system which has potential for global peatland monitoring. SAR can penetrate through clouds, covers simultaneously a vast area at high spatial resolution and has a short revisit cycle. Interferometric SAR (InSAR) is an emerging technique to measure surface height changes utilising the difference in the path length that the signal travels between SAR acquisitions of the same target from the same orbital position at different times. The resultant deformation image does not show the absolute change in the path length but the result is ambiguously wrapped in cycles corresponding to half of the signal wavelength, complicating estimation of larger changes. A co-product of InSAR processing is the coherence image, describing the similarity of the spatial patterns in the images. The objective of my dissertation is testing the limits of InSAR and, built on it, improving peatland monitoring. It was studied: 1) coherence response to the water table in raised bogs; 2) coherence response to peat surface alteration caused by the milled peat production; 3) reliability of InSAR deformation estimates in open bogs. Based on the results, coherence could be used as aid to understanding of hydrologic conditions in bogs but it is unsuitable for direct moisture retrieval. Coherence can be used to monitor peat extraction, considering intrinsic limitations posed by the SAR and the peat extraction process. The ambiguity problem makes displacement measurements at the conventional 5.6 cm wavelength unreliable in bogs. A solution could be the planned long wavelength (24 cm) SAR missions.

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