Michael Hsing-Chung Chang

Differential Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar for Land Deformation Monitoring

University of NSW
Supervisor (Academic)
Dr Linlin Ge & Prof Chris Rizos, University of NSW
Supervisor (Industry)
Mr John Douglas, Apogee
Lecturer, Macquarie University
Thesis Abstract

Australia is one of the leading mineral resource extraction nations in the world. It is one of the world’s top producers of nickel, zinc, uranium, lithium, coal, gold, iron ore and silver. However, the complexity of the environmental issues and the potentially damaging consequences of mining have attracted public attention and political controversy. Other types of underground natural resource exploitation, such as ground water, gas or oil extractions, also cause severe land deformation on different scales in space and time. The subsidence due to underground mining and underground fluid extractions has the potential to impact on surface and near surface infrastructure; as well as water quality and quantity, that in turn has the potential to impact on threatened flora and fauna, and biodiversity conservation. Subsidence can also impact natural and cultural heritage. To date, most of land deformation monitoring is done using conventional surveying techniques, such as total stations, levelling, GPS, etc. These surveying techniques provide high precision in height at millimetre accuracy, but with the drawbacks of inefficiency and costliness (labour intensive and time consuming) when surveying over a large area.

Radar interferometry is an imaging technique for measuring geodetic information of terrain. It exploits phase information of the backscattered radar signals from the ground surface to retrieve the altitude or displacements of the objects. It has been successfully applied in the areas of cartography, geodesy, land cover characterisation, mitigation of natural or man-made hazards, etc.

The goal of this dissertation was to develop a system which integrated differential interferometric synthetic aperture radar (DInSAR), ground survey data and geographic information systems (GIS) as a whole to provide the land deformation maps for underground mining and water extraction activities. This system aimed to reinforce subsidence assessment processes and avoid or mitigate potential risks to lives, infrastructure and the natural environment.

The selection of suitable interferometric pairs is limited to the spatial and temporal separations of the acquired SAR images as well as the characteristics of the site, e.g. slope of terrain, land cover, climate, etc. Interferometric pairs with good coherence were selected for further DInSAR analysis. The coherence analysis of both C- and L-band spaceborne SAR data was studied for sites in the State of New South Wales, Australia. The impact of the quality of the digital elevation models (DEM), used to remove the static topography in 2-pass DInSAR, were also analysed. This dissertation examined the quality of the DEM generated using aerial photogrammetry, InSAR, and airborne laser scanning (ALS) against field survey data. Kinematic and real-time kinematic GPS were introduced here as an efficient surveying method for collecting ground truth data for DEM validation.

For mine subsidence monitoring, continuous DInSAR mine subsidence maps were generated using ERS-1/2, Radarsat-1 and JERS-1 data with the assumption of negligible horizontal displacement. One of the significant findings of this study was the results from the ERS-1/2 tandem DInSAR, which showed an immediate mine subsidence of 1cm occurred during a period of 24 hours. It also raised the importance of SAR constellations for disaster mitigation.

In order to understand the 3-D displacement vectors of mine deformation, this dissertation also proposed a method using the SAR data acquired at 3 independent incidence angles from both ascending and descending orbits. Another issue of the high phase gradient, induced by the mine subsidence, was also addressed. Phase gradient was clearly overcome by having the L-band ALOS data with an imaging resolution of 10m, which is better than the imaging resolution of 18m of the previous generation of the Japanese L-band SAR satellite, JERS-1. The ground survey data over a similar duration was used for validation.

Besides mine subsidence monitoring the land deformation caused by groundwater pumping were also presented. In contrast to mine subsidence, the underground water extraction induced subsidence has the characteristics of a slow rate of change and less predictable location and coverage. Two case studies were presented. One was at the geothermal fields in New Zealand and another was the urban subsidence due to underground water over exploitation in China. Both studies were validated against ground survey data.

Finally, SAR intensity analysis for detecting land deformation was demonstrated when DInSAR was not applicable due to strong decorrelation. The region of land surface change, which may be caused by human activities or natural disasters, can be classified. Two cases studies were given. The first study was the surface change detection at an open-cut mine. The second one was the 2004 Asian tsunami damage assessment near Banda Aceh.

The results presented in this dissertation showed that the integrated system of DInSAR, GIS and ground surveys has the potential to monitor mine subsidence over a large area. The accuracy of the derived subsidence maps can be further improved by having a shorter revisit cycle and better imaging resolution of the newly launched and planned SAR satellites and constellation missions. The subsidence caused by groundwater pumping can be monitored at an accuracy of millimetre by utilising the technique of persistent scatterer InSAR.