Synthetic Aperture Radar backscatter measurements are sensitive to the texture of the surface under scrutiny.
Measurements returned from the ocean can be used to deduce surface waves, to detect and analyse surface features such as fronts, eddies, and oil slicks, and to detect and track ships, which appear as bright points of high reflectivity. Operational wave and sea ice forecasting is also an important near real-time application of SAR data.
Images over land may be used to infer information on land cover and vegetation types - as an active sensor, SAR has the ability to penetrate cloud cover and see through local darkness. In addition, multiple polarisations can be applied to enhance sensitivity and add 'colour' to a scene.
Interferometry is used to record the phase shift between 2 SAR images acquired over the same spot slightly different times, thereby providing accurate information on subsidence and geological activity, down to millimetre-scale accuracy.
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