In this study, variations of radar backscatter features of the tidal channel in Gyeonggi Bay in the Eastern Yellow Sea were investigated using spaceborne synthetic aperture radar (SAR) images. Consistent quasi-linear bright features appeared on the SAR images. Examining the detailed local bathymetry chart, we found that the features were co-located with the major axis of the tidal channel in the region. It was also shown that modulation of the radar backscatter features changed according to the environmental conditions at the time of imaging. For the statistical analysis, the bathymetric features over the tidal channel were extracted by an objective method. In terms of shape, the extracted features had higher variability in width than in length. The analysis of the variation in intensity with the coinciding bathymetric distribution confirmed that the quasi-linear bright features on the SAR images are fundamentally imprinted due to the surface current convergence and divergence caused by the bathymetry-induced tidal current variation. Furthermore, the contribution of environmental factors to the intensity modulation was quantitatively analyzed. A comparison of the variation in normalized radar cross section (NRCS) with tidal current showed a positive correlation only with the perpendicular component of tidal current (r= 0.47). This implies that the modulation in intensity of the tidal channel signatures is mainly affected by the interaction with cross-current flow. On the other hand, the modulation of the NRCS over the tidal channel tended to be degraded as wind speed increased (r= −0.65). Considering the environmental circumstances in the study area, it can be inferred that the imaging capability of SAR for the detection of tidal channel signatures mainly relies on wind speed.
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