Utilizing SAR Sensors to Assess Infrastructure Conditions After Disasters

Automated seep detection for levees in the Mississippi River Basin based on soil moisture estimates from PolSAR data.

Team Location: Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, California

Karen An (University of California, Irvine)
Kenta Ishii (University of California, Santa Barbara)
Scott Barron (University of California, Los Angeles)

Cathleen Jones Ph.D. (JPL/Caltech)
Benjamin Holt (JPL/Caltech)

Past/Other Contributors:
Mississippi River Disasters – Spring 2012 (JPL)
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Disasters and Water Resources – Fall 2012 (JPL)


Interferometric and polarimetric data from synthetic aperture radar sensors were used to study infrastructure conditions after major earthquakes and flood events in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and Mississippi River Basin regions. The health of both levee systems are currently monitored by field assessments, therefore an automated system that is able to pinpoint areas of damage is highly beneficial to these end-users. This study provided five support tools that are user-friendly for these agencies and improved the effectiveness of post-disaster recovery. Seep detection models for levees and aqueducts were created to automatically locate areas of increased soil moisture using polarimetric data, along with a model to monitor how seepages change over time for levees. An infrastructure mask also was created to isolate levees, roads, and aqueducts and to be used with modeled seismic products that determined infrastructure locations most vulnerable to earthquakes. These automated support tools were designed to be compatible with multiple synthetic aperture radar products, which will be of great value during a disaster event when spaceborne data may be more readily available.

Return to the Summer 2013 VPS page.