Investigating the backscatter contrast anomaly in synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery of the dunes along the Israel–Egypt border

Offer Rozenstein, Zehava Siegal, Dan G. Blumberg, Jan Adamowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


The dune field intersected by the Israel–Egypt borderline has attracted many remote sensing studies over the years because it exhibits unique optical phenomena in several domains, from the visual to the thermal infrared. These phenomena are the result of land-use policies implemented by the two countries, which have differing effects on the two ecosystems. This study explores the surface properties that affect radar backscatter, namely the surface roughness and dielectric properties, in order to determine the cause for the variation across the border. The backscatter contrast was demonstrated for SIR-C, the first synthetic aperture radar (SAR) sensor to capture this phenomenon, as well as ASAR imagery that coincides with complementary ground observations. These field observations along the border, together with an aerial image from the same year as the SIR-C acquisition were used to analyze differences in vegetation patterns that can affect the surface roughness. The dielectric permittivity of two kinds of topsoil (sand, biocrust) was measured in the field and in the laboratory. The results suggest that the vegetation structure and spatial distribution differ between the two sides of the border in a manner that is consistent with the radar observations. The dielectric permittivity of sand and biocrust was found to be similar, although they are not constant across the radar spectral region (50 MHz–20 GHz). These findings support the hypothesis that changes to the vegetation, as a consequence of the different land-use practices in Israel and Egypt, are the cause for the radar backscatter contrast across the border.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-21
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2016


  • Aerial imagery
  • Land use
  • Remote sensing
  • Soil dielectric permittivity
  • Spatial pattern analysis
  • Surface roughness
  • Synthetic aperture radar

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Computers in Earth Sciences
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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