Storm-surge flooding and marsh response throughout the coastal wetlands of Louisiana were mapped using several types of remote sensing data collected before and after Hurricanes Gustav and Ike in 2008. These included synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data obtained from the (1) C-band advance SAR (ASAR) aboard the Environmental Satellite, (2) phased-array type L-band SAR (PALSAR) aboard the Advanced Land Observing Satellite, and (3) optical data obtained from Thematic Mapper (TM) sensor aboard the Land Satellite (Landsat). In estuarine marshes, L-band SAR and C-band ASAR provided accurate flood extent information when depths averaged at least 80 cm, but only L-band SAR provided consistent subcanopy detection when depths averaged 50 cm or less. Low performance of inundation mapping based on C-band ASAR was attributed to an apparent inundation detection limit (>30 cm deep) in tall Spartina alterniflora marshes, a possible canopy collapse of shoreline fresh marsh exposed to repeated storm-surge inundations, wind-roughened water surfaces where water levels reached marsh canopy heights, and relatively high backscatter in the near-range portion of the SAR imagery. A TM-based vegetation index of live biomass indicated that the severity of marsh dieback was linked to differences in dominant species. The severest impacts were not necessarily caused by longer inundation but rather could be caused by repeated exposure of the palustrine marsh to elevated salinity floodwaters. Differential impacts occurred in estuarine marshes. The more brackish marshes on average suffered higher impacts than the more saline marshes, particularly the nearshore coastal marshes occupied by S. alterniflora.
Additional publication details
Limitations and potential of satellite imagery to monitor environmental response to coastal flooding