Study of Systematic Bias in Measuring Surface Deformation with SAR Interferometry

This paper investigates the presence of a new interferometric signal in multilooked Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) interferograms which cannot be attributed to atmospheric or earth surface topography changes. The observed signal is short-lived and decays with temporal baseline; however, it is distinct from the stochastic noise usually attributed to temporal decorrelation. The presence of such fading signal introduces a systematic phase component, particularly in short temporal baseline interferograms. If unattended, it biases the estimation of Earth surface deformation from SAR time series.
The contribution of the mentioned phase component is quantitatively assessed. For short temporal baseline interferograms, we quantify the phase contribution to be in the regime of 5 rad at C-band. The biasing impact on deformation signal retrieval is further evaluated. As an example, exploiting a subset of short temporal baseline interferograms which connects each acquisition with the successive 5 in the time series, a significant bias of -6.5 mm/yr is observed in the estimation of deformation velocity from a four-year Sentinel-1 data stack. A practical solution for mitigation of this physical fading signal is further discussed; special attention is paid to the efficient processing of Big Data from modern SAR missions such as Sentinel-1 and NISAR. Adopting the proposed solution, the deformation bias is shown to decrease to -0.24 mm/yr for the Sentinel-1 time series.
Based on these analyses, we put forward our recommendations for efficient and accurate deformation signal retrieval from large stacks of multilooked interferograms.