GEOS 5210

Remote Sensing Applications in Geological and Environmental Sciences

Credits: 3 hours

Course Description

The course provides rigorous hands-on-exercises on the applications of remote sensing techniques in geological and in environmental sciences (70% of student effort). The hands-on exercises are primarily based on data from case studies (most of which was published in peer-reviewed articles), data downloaded from our receiving station, and/or data collected by the students using hand-held VNIR spectro-radiometer. In the process of solving the lab exercise, the students will master image processing techniques (e.g., radiometric and geometric enhancement, image classifications, etc.). The course will cover (30% of student effort) the fundamentals of remote sensing as well, since the students can not start dealing with applications unless they understand the fundamentals. Examples of these applications include:

    • Compositional and structural mapping with Landsat thematic mapper data Using field data (e.g., sample location), petrographic data (modal abundances), hand-held spectral data, students will develop methodologies to extract compositional (lithologic) and structural information from Landsat thematic mapper data, and produce a geologic map (composition and structure) for study areas (test site).
    • Large-scale correlations from space-borne observations Africa (Nubia) and Arabia remained contiguous until about 25 Ma, when the Red Sea started opening and the once contiguous shields (Arabian and Nubian shields) started drifting apart. The students will conduct large-scale correlations of lithologies and structures across the Red Sea using processed satellite images to identify the relative orientation of the Arabian and Nubian Shields prior to Red Sea opening. Students will use their findings to constrain the geologic history of the Shields and the mechanics of the Red Sea rifting.
    • Paleoclimatic inferences from SIR-C data At present, the Sahara of North Africa is one of the most arid deserts in the world; however, the geologic evidence indicates that arid and wet periods alternated throughout the Quaternary. The hyper-aridity of the study area ( Sahara) provides ideal conditions for the use of SIR-C/X-SAR data given the deep penetration of radar energy under these conditions. Using SIR-C/X-SAR data the students will map the paleo-channels, now covered by encroaching sand sheets. The students will address the paleo-climatic history of the area through comparisons between the SIR-C-derived channels, drainage patterns the students extract from the global 1km SRTM (regional topographic data), and modern drainage patterns they infer from Landsat data.
    • Monitoring the spatial and temporal distribution of algal blooms in Lake Erie and in LakeOntario using real-time remote sensing data (MODIS, SeaWifs, MVISR) The students will develop methods to respond to major coastal resource or public health impacts associated with harmful algae blooms (HABs) and will investigate the driving forces for the propagation of these blooms. The students will be analyzing space-borne remote sensing data to study algal blooms; specifically the visible and near-infrared spectral bands. The identification of algal blooms from space-borne observations by the students will be enabled because of the: (1) distinct spectral signature of the algal bloom compared to that of the surrounding water; and (2) large spectral variations over an area within a short interval arising from the explosion in algal population. With the deployment of SeaWifs and MODIS, as well as the MVISR sensor, the students can ultimately analyze up to 5 images over study area per day and hence have a better chance of seeing the bloom in days of high cloud cover.
    • Assessment, monitoring, and modeling of changes in land use and land cover and their impacts on the water cycle The students will be developing and applying an integrated systems approach (involving remote sensing, geochemical, and hydrologic modeling) to assess, monitor, and model the recent and future impacts of changes in the landscape and land cover associated with major agricultural development projects (e.g., dams, irrigation canals) that affect the water resources of the underlying groundwater aquifers and the existing fresh water ecosystems.
    • Assessment of renewable water resources The students conduct comprehensive studies to develop, validate, and demonstrate techniques to evaluate the extent of alternative renewable water resources arising from sporadic precipitation over large watersheds. In this exercise the students extract digital elevation models (DEM) from pairs of ASTER scenes, delineate drainage patterns and watershed boundaries from the DEMs, evaluate precipitation over the delineated watersheds using TRMM data, and conduct surface runoff modeling to compute initial losses, surface runoff, and recharge.
    • Soil settling in Amherst city NY, using radar interferometry Over the past decade, structural damage due to foundation problems has been reported for approximately 500 buildings in the town of Amherst . It has been suggested that the foundation problems are most likely related to soil settling due to dewatering of clay. The extent of this problem is not yet understood. The students will evaluate the extent of this problem using radar interferometry techniques. They will calculate the interference pattern caused by the difference in phase between two images acquired by the space-borne synthetic aperture radar at two distinct times.

    Fundamentals covered in the course include:

    History and scope of remote sensing: Concept of remote sensing, geophysical remote sensing, milestones. Electromagnetic radiations: Wave model of electromagnetic energy, matter interaction with atmosphere, matter interaction with terrain, radiance and hemispherical reflectance, absorptance, and transmittance Spectroscopy of rocks and minerals and principles of spectroscopy: Causes of absorption, electronic processes, vibrational processes, spectra of miscellaneous minerals and rocks, scattering processes Multispectral and hyperspectral remote sensing: Landsat System, Spot, ASTER, IKONOS, AVHRR, SeaWifs, MISR, Hyperion Active Microwave and Lidar: Geometry of radar image, wavelength, penetration, polarization, SAR, RADARSAT, radar interferometry, LIDAR sensor system, Canopy penetration Thermal infrared radiation:Thermal infrared radiation properties, thermal radiation laws, thermal properties of a terrain.

    Text Books:

    The lectures do not follow the format of any single published remote sensing text book. No text books are required for the lab sections.

          • Jensen, J.R., Remote sensing of the environment, an Earth Resource Perspective, 2004, Prentice Hall, New Jersey, 544 pp., (required)
          • Jensen, J.R., 2004, Introductory digital image processing, a remote sensing perspective, second edition, Prentice Hall, New Jersey, 526 pp. (optional)



          • 50% Assignments/projects
          • 50% Quiz, mid-term, final