Analyses of spaceborne imaging radar-C (SIR-C) data and field data from the northwestern Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, demonstrate that spaceborne multifrequency polarimetric radars are excellent tools for characterizing patterns of wetland flooding. Seasonal flooding can be detected in most types of forest and marsh in the radar backscatter magnitude and phase data of both L and C band. Field observations made in the wet and dry seasons concurrent with the space missions and chemical analyses of floodwaters confirm that flooding is the product of discharge from the Yucatan aquifer, which consists of a fresh-water lens floating on seawater. This discharge controls the distribution of wetlands. Therefore, vegetation and flooding patterns, mapped with SIR-C imagery, provide valuable information on the hydrogeology of the region.
Radar-image maps of wetlands and flooding indicate that there are three major zones of groundwater discharge that correlate with structures of the buried Chicxulub crater—zone 1 with the peak ring, zone 2 with the crater rim, and zone 3 with the exterior ring. Zone 1 has sulfate-poor discharge, unlike the sulfate-rich discharge in zones 2 and 3. The highest discharge is in zone 3, where the buried crater is closest to the surface. This groundwater-discharge pattern can be explained by tidal pumping of fresh water to the surface through high permeability zones developed in the Tertiary carbonates overlying crater faults and escarpments.