The emergence of the Sentinel-1A and 1B satellites now offers freely available and widely accessible Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data. Near-global coverage and rapid repeat time (6–12 days) gives Sentinel-1 data the potential to be widely used for monitoring the Earth’s surface. Subtle land-cover and land surface changes can affect the phase and amplitude of the C-band SAR signal, and thus the coherence between two images collected before and after such changes. Analysis of SAR coherence therefore serves as a rapidly deployable and powerful tool to track both seasonal changes and rapid surface disturbances following natural disasters. An advantage of using Sentinel-1 C-band radar data is the ability to easily construct time series of coherence for a region of interest at low cost. In this paper, we propose a new method for Potentially Affected Area (PAA) detection following a natural hazard event. Based on the coherence time series, the proposed method (1) determines the natural variability of coherence within each pixel in the region of interest, accounting for factors such as seasonality and the inherent noise of variable surfaces; and (2) compares pixel-by-pixel syn-event coherence to temporal coherence distributions to determine where statistically significant coherence loss has occurred. The user can determine to what degree the syn-event coherence value (e.g., 1st, 5th percentile of pre-event distribution) constitutes a PAA, and integrate pertinent regional data, such as population density, to rank and prioritise PAAs. We apply the method to two case studies, Sarpol-e, Iran following the 2017 Iran-Iraq earthquake, and a landslide-prone region of NW Argentina, to demonstrate how rapid identification and interpretation of potentially affected areas can be performed shortly following a natural hazard event.
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