Sentinel-1 cross ratio and vegetation optical depth: A comparison over Europe

Mariette Vreugdenhil, Claudio Navacchi, Bernhard Bauer-Marschallinger, Sebastian Hahn, Susan Steele-Dunne, Isabella Pfeil, Wouter Dorigo , Wolfgang Wagner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
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Vegetation products based on microwave remote sensing observations, such as Vegetation Optical Depth (VOD), are increasingly used in a variety of applications. One disadvantage is the often coarse spatial resolution of tens of kilometers of products retrieved from microwave observations from spaceborne radiometers and scatterometers. This can potentially be overcome by using new high-resolution Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) observations from Sentinel-1. However, the sensitivity of Sentinel-1 backscatter to vegetation dynamics, or its use in radiative transfer models, such as the water cloud model, has only been tested at field to regional scale. In this study, we compared the cross-polarization ratio (CR) to vegetation dynamics as observed in microwave-based Vegetation Optical Depth from coarse-scale satellites over Europe. CR was obtained from Sentinel-1 VH and VV backscatter observations at 500 m sampling and resampled to the spatial resolution of VOD from the Advanced SCATterometer (ASCAT) on-board the Metop satellite series. Spatial patterns between median CR and ASCAT VOD correspond to each other and to vegetation patterns over Europe. Analysis of temporal correlation between CR and ASCAT VOD shows that high Pearson correlation coefficients (Rp) are found over croplands and grasslands (median Rp > 0.75). Over deciduous broadleaf forests, negative correlations are found. This is attributed to the effect of structural changes in the vegetation canopy which affect CR and ASCAT VOD in different ways. Additional analysis comparing CR to passive microwave-based VOD shows similar effects in deciduous broadleaf forests and high correlations over crop-and grasslands. Though the relationship between CR and VOD over deciduous forests is unclear, results suggest that CR is useful for monitoring vegetation dynamics over crop-and grassland and a potential path to high-resolution VOD.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3404
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Sentinel-1
  • Vegetation dynamics
  • Vegetation Optical Depth


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