Two-Stage Change Detection for Synthetic Aperture Radar

Miriam Cha, Rhonda D. Phillips, Patrick J. Wolfe, Christ D. Richmond

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Coherent change detection using paired synthetic aperture radar (SAR) images is often performed using a classical coherence estimator that is invariant to the true variances of the populations underlying each paired sample. While attractive, this estimator is biased and requires a significant number of samples to yield good performance. Increasing sample size often results in decreased image resolution. Thus, we propose the use of Berger's coherence estimate because, with the same number of pixels, the estimator effectively doubles the sample support without sacrificing resolution when the underlying population variances are equal or near equal. A potential drawback of this approach is that it is not invariant since its distribution depends on the pixel pair population variances. While Berger's estimator is inherently sensitive to the inequality of population variances, we propose a method of insulating the detector from this acuity. A two-stage change statistic is introduced to combine a noncoherent intensity change statistic given by the sample variance ratio, followed by the alternative Berger estimator, which assumes equal population variances. The first-stage detector identifies pixel pairs that have nonequal variances as changes caused by the displacement of sizeable object. The pixel pairs that are identified to have equal or near-equal variances in the first stage are used as an input to the second stage. The second-stage test uses the alternative Berger coherence estimator to detect subtle changes such as tire tracks and footprints. We show experimentally that the proposed method yields higher contrast SAR change detection images than the classical coherent change detector (state of the art), the alternative coherent change detector, and the intensity change detector. Experimental results are presented to show the effectiveness and robustness of the proposed algorithm for SAR change detection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7163589
Pages (from-to)6547-6560
Number of pages14
JournalIEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Coherence estimation
  • coherent change detection (CCD)
  • interferometric synthetic aperture radar processing
  • synthetic aperture radar (SAR)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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