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Scientific Investigations Map 3190

Description and Validation of an Automated Methodology for Mapping Mineralogy, Vegetation, and Hydrothermal Alteration Type from ASTER Satellite Imagery with Examples from the San Juan Mountains, Colorado

By Barnaby W. Rockwell

Thumbnail of and link to publication contentsAbstract

The efficacy of airborne spectroscopic, or “hyperspectral,” remote sensing for geoenvironmental watershed evaluations and deposit-scale mapping of exposed mineral deposits has been demonstrated. However, the acquisition, processing, and analysis of such airborne data at regional and national scales can be time and cost prohibitive. The Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) sensor carried by the NASA Earth Observing System Terra satellite was designed for mineral mapping and the acquired data can be efficiently used to generate uniform mineral maps over very large areas.

Multispectral remote sensing data acquired by the ASTER sensor were analyzed to identify and map minerals, mineral groups, hydrothermal alteration types, and vegetation groups in the western San Juan Mountains, Colorado, including the Silverton and Lake City calderas. This mapping was performed in support of multidisciplinary studies involving the predictive modeling of surface water geochemistry at watershed and regional scales.

Detailed maps of minerals, vegetation groups, and water were produced from an ASTER scene using spectroscopic, expert system-based analysis techniques which have been previously described. New methodologies are presented for the modeling of hydrothermal alteration type based on the Boolean combination of the detailed mineral maps, and for the entirely automated mapping of alteration types, mineral groups, and green vegetation. Results of these methodologies are compared with the more detailed maps and with previously published mineral mapping results derived from analysis of high-resolution spectroscopic data acquired by the Airborne Visible/Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS) sensor. Such comparisons are also presented for other mineralized and (or) altered areas including the Goldfield and Cuprite mining districts, Nevada and the central Marysvale volcanic field, Wah Wah Mountains, and San Francisco Mountains, Utah. The automated mineral group mapping products described in this study are ideal for application to mineral resource and mineral-environmental assessments at regional and national scales.

Revised February 1, 2013

First posted January 25, 2012

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For additional information:
USGS Central Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center
Box 25046, Mail Stop 973
Denver, CO 80225

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Suggested citation:

Rockwell, B.W., 2012, Description and validation of an automated methodology for mapping mineralogy, vegetation, and hydrothermal alteration type from ASTER satellite imagery with examples from the San Juan Mountains, Colorado: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Map 3190, 35 p. pamphlet, 5 map sheets, scale 1:100,000. (Revised February 2013.)



Map Usage

Descriptions of Map Sheets and Associated ERDAS Imagine Raster Image Files

Description of Automated Analysis Methodology

Comparison and Validation of Automated Results

Deficiencies of the Automated Analysis Methodology


Additional Data



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