In this study, the C-band radar backscatter features of the shallow water topography of Subei Bank in the Southern Yellow Sea are statistically investigated using 25 ENVISAT (Environmental Satellite) ASAR (advanced synthetic aperture radar) and ERS-2 (European Remote-Sensing Satellite-2) SAR images acquired between 2006 and 2010. Different bathymetric features are found on SAR imagery under different sea states. Under low to moderate wind speeds (3.1~6.3 m/s), the wide bright patterns with an average width of 6 km are shown and correspond to sea surface imprints of tidal channels formed by two adjacent sand ridges, while the sand ridges appear as narrower (only 1 km wide), fingerlike, quasi-linear features on SAR imagery in high winds (5.4~13.9 m/s). Two possible SAR imaging mechanisms of coastal bathymetry are proposed in the case where the flow is parallel to the major axes of tidal channels or sand ridges. When the surface Ekman current is opposite to the mean tidal flow, two vortexes will converge at the central line of the tidal channel in the upper layer and form a convergent zone over the sea surface. Thus, the tidal channels are shown as wide and bright stripes on SAR imagery. For the SAR imaging of sand ridges, all the SAR images were acquired at low tidal levels. In this case, the ocean surface waves are possibly broken up under strong winds when propagating from deep water to the shallower water, which leads to an increase of surface roughness over the sand ridges.
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