Geomorphology from Space - Remtoe Sensing Application - Completely Remote Sensing, GPS, and GPS Tutorial
Geomorphology from Space

During the mid-1980s, the writer (NMS) began research on space imagery for producing small-scale geomorphic maps and for investigating some specific geologic problems involving interrelations of landforms and tectonic processes. Aware of this, the Geology Discipline Leader at NASA Headquarters saw the potential benefits and decided to fund a conference on Regional Geomorphology. I was charged with organing it. Thus, on January 14-16, 1985, we held a Workshop on Global Mega-Geomorphology at Oracle, Arizona. Thirty international participants spent the first two days presenting papers and engaging in lively discussions and then met in four working groups on the third day to consider the role of space imagery in these thematic frameworks: 1) Global Geomorphology, 2) Evolution and Inheritance of Landforms, 3) Process Thresholds, and 4) Planetary Perspectives. This workshop (summarized in NASA Conference Publication 2312) laid a foundation for future research in a field whose name– Global Mega-Geomorphology, first proposed as a new concept in 1982–was certified by the attendees. The Proceeding from the Conference are recorded in NASA Conference Publication 2312:

The Conference Proceedings

There was an almost immediate payoff. The writer (NMS) received NASA funding to prepare a publication that focused on using space images to characterize landforms. Joined by Robert Blair, Jr of Fort Lewis College, Durango, CO, as co-editor, we assembled fourteen scientists (including ourselves) to write twelve chapters, each covering a different geomorphic theme, in a 717 page book entitled: Geomorphology from Space: A Global Overview of Regional Landforms (NASA SP-486), which appeared at the end of 1986. Although we distributed 4,000 copies, the book did not, at first, receive adequate publicity. In recent years, authorities have acknowledged it as an invaluable compendium of geomorphic information, as well as a comprehensive survey of the world's geology, and it has led to renewed interest in regional analysis.

Unfortunately, there was no second printing, so NASA and the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) cannot fill requests for copies (used copies are available from Amazon). But, NASA leaders recognized its value, so people in the educational program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) decided to add it to their growing set of sponsered CD-ROMs, available at low cost to professionals and the public (it is distributed through the Goddard DAAC; contact through [this phone number may still lead to someone who can help: 301-614-5224]). A staff at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center did much of the scanning and layout, with this version of the book now accessible on the Web at this Goddard website.

One of the serendipitous outcomes of this book is that Dr. Robert S. Hayden (at the time a Research Fellow at Goddard) was persuaded by the writer to prepare several geomorphic maps from full and partial Landsat images, as a demonstration of the possibilities of mapping at this scale from space imagery. We reproduce here a Landsat-2 image of the upper Gulf of California (mostly in Mexico) and the beginning of Baja California. Below it is his geomorphic map, with key:

Full scene Landsat-2 view, on December 23, 1975 of the mouth of the Colorado River in the upper Gulf of California, in northwest Mexico.
Geomorphic units map, prepared by Prof. Robert S. Hayden, of the Gulf of California scene above.
Key to the above Geomorphic map.

"Geomorphology from Space" contains nine thematic chapters: Tectonic Landforms, Volcanic, Fluvial, Deltaic, Coastal, Karst/Lakes, Eolian, Glacial, and Planetary Landforms. These chapters contain many stunning and revelatory images, all open to inspection on the CD-ROM and the Internet. To whet your curiosity, we now present two or more representative examples for each theme (except Planetary, which we thoroughly treat in Section 19), along with a brief description of what can be extracted from the image regarding Geomorphology and general Geology.