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2024 Technical Short Course: InSAR Processing and Theory using GMTSAR

Date(s): July 1, 2, & 18, 2024
Location: Virtual

This course will cover the theory and application of repeat-pass synthetic aperture radar interferometry (InSAR) using the software GMTSAR. Lectures and exercises will be given to teach the basic theoretical aspects of InSAR. Labs will include software installation, running test data sets for standard interferogram formation, as well as more advanced processing for time series with Sentinel-1A TOPS-mode data. Those unfamiliar with the software package GMT are encouraged to view the 2023 GMT for Geodesy video playlist. Several of the instructors will be using Jupyter notebooks for the high-level interface.

Time: 1-hour small group breakouts, and 3-hour plenary sessions
Primary Audience: Graduate and undergraduate students in Earth Science.
Secondary Audience: Early career geoscientists, university, government, or industry.

Learning Objectives

In this course you will learn: 

  • How to use the UNIX shell and install software using a package manager.
  • How to gather a topography grid and make a basic map using GMT.
  • Understand the basic physical principles of SAR and InSAR.
  • Generate interferograms with test data sets. Make your own interferogram(s).
  • (Advanced) Construct InSAR time series using Sentinel-1 data.

Participant Commitment

Students should expect about 20-80 hours worth of work, including small group breakout and plenary sessions. 

Prerequisites, Computer and Data

Participants should have some college level math and physics experience. They should be familiar with UNIX and plan to have a computer capable of running this software with at least 12 GB of memory and 40 GB of free disk space. Their Internet should have enough broadband to handle a stable Zoom virtual meeting environment. A willingness to learn the Generic Mapping Tool for Geodesy (GMT) is also a plus. Computer code, documentation, and sample data sets can be freely downloaded from public sites.

Brief Agenda

This short course will take place in June and July with a series of breakout meetings with individual instructors based on the number of students per time zone. There will be three group sessions the week of July 15-18, 2024. Tentative agenda is listed below, and subject to change.

Between June 10 and July 1Instruction & assessment (individual small groups, instructors and students)
July 1-2Plenary sessions (all students and instructors)
Theory of SAR
Theory of InSAR
Applications of InSAR
How to access SAR data and NISAR
Two-pass interferometry
InSAR time series
Learn to process NISAR data in the cloud
July 3-16 Install and Practice (individual small groups, instructors and students)
July 17Final Presentation Review (individual small groups, instructors and students)
July 18Plenary session (instructors and students)
– Selected student presentations


Each student will be required to make an oral or written presentation related to their interests and progress in InSAR data processing.


  • Ann Chen, University of Texas, Austin
  • Wangpeng Feng, Sun Yat-Sen University
  • Katherine Guns, USGS
  • Eric Lindsey, University of New Mexico
  • Kathryn Materna, University of Colorado, Boulder
  • Wojciech Milczarek, Wroclaw University of Science and Technology
  • Qi Ou, University of Edinburgh
  • David Sandwell, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
  • Wei Tang, China University of Mining and Technology
  • Xiaopeng Tong, Institute of Geophysics, China Earthquake Administration
  • Katia Tymofyeyeva, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)
  • Kang Wang, EarthScope
  • Matt Wei, University of Rhode Island
  • Xiaohua Xu, University of Science and Technology of China