A comparison of side-looking airborne radar (SLAR) images and black and white aerial photos of similar scale and illumination of an area in the Mojave Desert of California shows that aerial photos yield far more information about geology than do SLAR images because of greater resolution, tonal range, and geometric fidelity, and easier use in stereo. Nevertheless, radar can differentiate some materials or surfaces that aerial photos cannot; thus, they should be considered as complementary, rather than competing tools in geologic investigations.

The most significant advantage of SLAR, however, is its freedom from the stringent conditions of weather, date, and time that are required by small-scale aerial photos taken with a specified direction and angle of illumination. Indeed, in low latitudes, SLAR is the only way to obtain small-scale images with low illumination from certain directions; moreover, in areas of nearly continuous cloudiness, radar may be the only practical source of small-scale images.

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