The expansion of the marine industries in Alaska requires the design, construction, and operation of expensive coastal infrastructure facilities. In the past, the lack of environmental information has often resulted in failure or overdesign, as well as difficulties in forecasting for coastal areas. The recent advent of high resolution satellite-based synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery and the creation of an imagery processing facility at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks is expected to result in significant improvements in the estimation of coastal wave parameters. The purpose of this project was to develop SAR technology into an operational tool capable of estimating wavelength, wave direction, wave height, and storm surge for forecasters and practicing professional engineers.
The use of SAR to examine nearshore ocean waves proved to be of limited use to the forecasting and coastal engineering communities at this time. However, with continued research, it has the potential to improve the nearshore wave climate information available. Although errors ranged from 12.5% to over 100% for comparison of SAR estimated wave lengths to wave lengths calculated from field-measured wave data, the fact that wave lengths, although inaccurate, could actually be determined from SAR is promising. SAR-based wave spectra compared poorly to measured spectra, and therefore wave height, period, and duration of storm attack could not be determined from SAR images with the researched techniques. Wave directions extracted from SAR images do, however, appear to be reasonably accurate, and affirm the capacity of SAR data for estimation of some wave parameters.