Potential Applications of NISAR

NISAR with several advanced features such as 12 days interferometric orbit, achievement of high resolution and wide swath images through SweepSAR technology and simultaneous data acquisition in L&S band would support a host of applications. The major applications projected for NISAR include:

Ecosystem Dynamics:

Accurate measurement of biomass of crops, forests and wetlands and monitoring the changes in vegetation due to natural as well as anthropogenic activities is vital for estimation of terrestrial carbon stock and carbon fluxes from these ecosystems, which has major bearing on the regional and global climate change studies. NISAR would address to the extent possible the distribution of vegetation and biomass to understand changes and trends in terrestrial ecosystems and their functioning as carbon sources and sinks and quantify changes resulting from disturbance and recovery. L & S band SAR with their higher sensitivity to vegetation biomass would enhance the scope of vegetation characterization, biomass estimation and vegetation change monitoring.

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Cryosphere Study:

Snow and Glaciers are one of the most dynamic features on the Earth’s surface and they play a vital role in hydrological cycle and largely control the climate at regional to global scales. The Himalayan region, comprising the highest number of mountain glaciers in the world, has a unique energy-mass exchange regime that may have great impact on climate change. NISAR would enable monitoring and retrieval of physical parameters of snow and glaciers in the Himalayan region at much improved spatio-temporal scales.

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Similarly, Ice-sheets and glaciers in the polar regions are experiencing dramatic changes. Increased melt rates are increasing the rate of sea level rise, and have the potential to raise sea level substantially in the coming decades. NISAR would provide temporally and geographically comprehensive observations of ice sheet and glacier surface dynamics, which are directly related to their stability as a response to the changing climate. Also, sea ice is another component of the Earth system that is changing extremely rapidly and in ways that can affect climate worldwide. NISAR’s orbital inclination allows all but near polar Arctic sea ice to be observed.

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Coastal Process Monitoring:

Coastal regions, being at the confluence of land, sea and atmosphere, are subjected to various natural forces and processes resulting into erosion of and deposition at the coasts. Studying coastal dynamics is therefore very important to understand the nature and magnitude of coastal processes. NISAR will provide a unique opportunity to study coastal features, processes and map shoreline changes through high repeat cycle synoptic coverage of coastal areas.

Oceanography:

Global oceans are major trade routes and are used widely for navigation. NISAR operating in L-band and S-band would be sensitive to the ocean roughness with wide dynamic range, enabling study of oceanic internal waves, currents, fronts and upwelling zones. NISAR, with the possibility of wide coverage of the oceans, would enable mapping of surface wind speed, coastal bathymetry, currents and eddies at high resolution, especially at S-band. In addition, the high target-to-background contrast at L and S-band will help in identification of oil slicks and ships in the open ocean as well as coastal seas.

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Land Deformation

Precise measurement of surface deformation derived from InSAR data of NISAR coupled with models can improve assessment of risk from natural hazards, which ultimately can minimize loss of life and destruction of property. NISAR would enable determination of: changes in the near surface stress field and geometry of active fault systems over major seismically active regions in India; land subsidence rates of major reported land subsidence areas (due to mining and/or groundwater pumping) in India; and major landslide prone areas in the hilly regions of India

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Geological Mapping:

Radar images provide distinct image textures that may denote erosion characteristics of the surface and the generalized bulk lithologies of the underlying rocks, thus providing information for geological mapping. Outlines of topographic features and textures of rock surfaces commonly appear more prominent in radar images than in optical or Infra-red images. NISAR would play a key role in geological applications including: structural and geo-morphological Mapping; mapping of paleo-channels and lineaments, study of sub-surface features and lithological mapping.

Disaster Response:

Natural disasters like earthquakes, volcanoes and landslides on average cause thousands of fatalities and cost billions of rupees annually. SAR has been proven to be the best remote sensing tool to map and monitor floods and oil spills. It is also highly useful to assess damage caused by forest fire. NISAR will have an emergency response plan for disaster monitoring and damage assessment through its synoptic coverage and high repeat cycle.

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Other Applications:

NISAR would support various other applications including:

  • Desertification
  • Enhanced crop monitoring
  • High resolution soil moisture estimation
  • Urban area development
  • Weather and hydrological forecasting