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Margit Kurka [12-2012]:

Observation of Swelling Clay Movement via Multipass Differential SAR Interferometry

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The herein presented research aimed at answering the question, if movement caused by swelling clays could be observed with differential SAR (synthetic aperture radar) interferometry (DInSAR). A study area located in the southwestern Denver metropolitan area was selected due to several factors, including its location in a semi-arid climate, the existence of bedrock containing swelling clays, existing historic and geological background information and available climate data. The geological conditions in the western part of the study area are characterized by steeply dipping sedimentary layers, causing a repeated change between sandstones and claystones at the surface, which was expected to reflect in the results from the DInSAR analysis. The time period chosen for the research started in February 1993 and ended in August 1997. The fact that the satellites ERS1 and ERS2 (ERS=European remote sensing satellite) flew in tandem for a short period of time in 1995 and 1996 promised data that could be used for calibrations during the processing. Twentyone ERS SAR images within the specified time period were acquired from ESA (European Space Agency). Results from a “conventional” DInSAR approach could not be interpreted due to remaining influences caused by noise and atmospheric phase contributions. An estimation of these phase components with “conventional” DInSAR methods was expected to be problematic, and therefore this DInSAR technique was rendered infeasible for the data and area investigated herein. Currently algorithms of the SBAS (Small Baseline Subset Analysis) DInSAR method are being developed at the Joanneum Research in Graz, and differential data obtained from the “conventional” approach could be used to perform first tests on these algorithms. It was expected that the SBAS analysis, which allows for estimation of atmospheric phase contributions, DEM errors, noise and orbital ramp, would give answers to the questions put forward in this thesis and not satisfactorily solved with the “conventional” approach. First preliminary results of the SBAS analysis, although requiring caution in their interpretation, look promising, indicating changes over time, and possibly reflecting seasonal changes as well. Areas of uplift mostly do correspond with geological conditions present in the study area. The hypothesis underlying this research and the main questions put forward were answered based on results from the “conventional” DInSAR method and preliminary results from the SBAS approach. Methods used and processing steps performed, limitations and difficulties encountered are outlined. Some questions remain open, and are expected to be answered based on future research regarding the use of DInSAR methods for the observation of swelling clay movement.

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