Estimation of glacier surface motion by robust phase correlation and point like features of SAR intensity images

Li Fang, Yusheng Xu, Wei Yao, Uwe Stilla

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


(ISPRS) For monitoring of glacier surface motion in pole and alpine areas, radar remote sensing is becoming a popular technology accounting for its specific advantages of being independent of weather conditions and sunlight. In this paper we propose a method for glacier surface motion monitoring using phase correlation (PC) based on point-like features (PLF). We carry out experiments using repeat-pass TerraSAR X-band (TSX) and Sentinel-1 C-band (S1C) intensity images of the Taku glacier in Juneau icefield located in southeast Alaska. The intensity imagery is first filtered by an improved adaptive refined Lee filter while the effect of topographic reliefs is removed via SRTM-X DEM. Then, a robust phase correlation algorithm based on singular value decomposition (SVD) and an improved random sample consensus (RANSAC) algorithm is applied to sequential PLF pairs generated by correlation using a 2D sinc function template. The approaches for glacier monitoring are validated by both simulated SAR data and real SAR data from two satellites. The results obtained from these three test datasets confirm the superiority of the proposed approach compared to standard correlation-like methods. By the use of the proposed adaptive refined Lee filter, we achieve a good balance between the suppression of noise and the preservation of local image textures. The presented phase correlation algorithm shows the accuracy of better than 0.25 pixels, when conducting matching tests using simulated SAR intensity images with strong noise. Quantitative 3D motions and velocities of the investigated Taku glacier during a repeat-pass period are obtained, which allows a comprehensive and reliable analysis for the investigation of large-scale glacier surface dynamics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)92-112
Number of pages21
JournalISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Glacier surface motion
  • Point like features
  • Robust phase correlation
  • Sentinel-1
  • Taku glacier
  • TerraSAR-X

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computers in Earth Sciences


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