A comparison of radar and optical remote sensing to detect cyclone-induced canopy disturbance in two subtropical forest landscapes

Jonathan Peereman, Soyeon Bae, Teng Chiu Lin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Optical remote sensing is a tool frequently used to assess cyclone-induced forest disturbances. However, the frequent cloud cover limits the availability of optical data in cyclone basins. On the other hand, radar remote sensing is not affected by cloud cover and has been used to detect windthrows. Yet, the potential of radar sensing in monitoring cyclone damages of varying magnitudes across forest landscapes remains unclear. Here, we compared radar remote sensing to optical remote sensing of four cyclone disturbances in the Fushan Experimental Forest of northern Taiwan and the El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico using Landsat 8 and C-band Sentinel-1 satellite data. We analyzed the change in two optical vegetation indices, EVI (Enhanced Vegetation Index) and NDII (Normalized Difference Infrared Index), and three radar-based metrics, co- and cross-polarized backscatters (VV, VH) and their ratio (Canopy Development Index, CDI) after cyclone disturbances and during approximately the same periods of non-cyclone years. We assessed the improved temporal resolution permitted by Sentinel-1 constellation on the detection of forest canopy disturbance. Bootstrapped comparisons indicated that both optical and radar indices detected canopy change, but their correlations were not significant. Improved temporal resolution of CDI allowed to distinguish cyclone-induced canopy change from the phenological variation and even change by nearby cyclones. Although this, VV and VH backscatters responded more closely to cyclone disturbances than their ratio. Our results demonstrate that the C-band backscatter intensities can track cyclone-induced change of forest canopies, and provide an assessment of C-band capabilities to monitor cyclone disturbances.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101002
JournalEnvironmental Research Communications
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Oct 1


  • cyclone
  • disturbance ecology
  • optical
  • radar
  • subtropical forest
  • vegetation indices

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • General Environmental Science
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Geology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science


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