Image credit: Beatona (Kuwait Official Environmental Portal)
Geomorphological features and terrain classes can be distinguished and mapped utilising a wide range of EO sensors and analytical techniques, often incorporating use of multiple EO datasets. Form, pattern, texture, tone and spatial relationships (between identified geomorphic landform units) are key tools for analysing and developing geomorphology maps and geomorphological information.
Analysis of DEM (Digital Elevation Model) and multispectral imagery are key steps to help distinguish terrain classes and map geomorphology.
Products may include:
Geomorphological mapping can be undertaken at a range of scales according to project needs and development stage. DEM analysis can be undertaken at multiple scales ranging from regional (e.g., SRTM 90 or 30 m data) to local scales (e.g., 1 m resolution DEM derived from stereo VHR1 data) for more detailed analysis (e.g., for site selection and assessing proposed development sites or for pipeline routeing).
Geomorphological features, landforms and hazards that can be mapped include: slope instability, rivers (crossings, river migration), coastal erosion, flooding, flash-flood/wadi, sabkha, karst, aggressive soils, mobile sands, seismic hazard (active faults) and volcanic hazards. Details on hydrology and hydrogeology (springs, seepage shallow groundwater table) can also be obtained from geomorphological analysis and mapping.
Geomorphological analysis can be utilised to identify ground related geohazards, develop risk registers and predict engineering properties of soils to inform site selection for infrastructure (facilities, roads, airstrips, pipelines) and to plan field work and ground investigations.
Multi-temporal analysis (utilising archive data together with recent imagery) can quantify rates of change of geomorphological features including: coastal erosion, river migration, dune mobility (direction and rate), subsidence and slope instability.
The geomorphology product delivers surface areas coded for geomorphological or terrain classes (as polygons), and may include shaded relief (raster) and hazard (polygon) maps.
Known restrictions / limitations
Geographies with dense vegetation such as tropical regions reduce the accuracy of interpretation. Use of radar imagery can mitigate these limitations to some extent. Airborne techniques such as LiDAR can also help mitigate these issues.
Lifecycle stage and demand
Pre-license: Information on geomorphology to support decision-making on a prospect with relation to cost estimation for exploration and development costs associated with access and geohazards.
Exploration: Geomorphological mapping, terrain analysis and hazard identification to assist planning of seismic surveys and other field work and provide data to support interpretation of seismic data. Support for logistics planning.
Development: Information for planning and design of infrastructure, to support site selection and pipeline routeing to determine hazards and risks in a proposed development area.
Production: May be required to be updated to monitor hazards within project area that may affect operations, e.g., slope instability, river erosion, dune migration, subsidence.
Decommissioning: Not typically required unless ongoing monitoring is required.
Geographic coverage and demand
Coverage is global.
Demand is global.
Demand is in all terrain areas.
OTM:014 Forecasting sand dune migration
OTM:036 Geohazard exposure analysis
OTM:023 Infrastructure planning
HC:1212 Identify sabkhas/salt lake areas
HC:2102 Understanding hydrogeology
HC:2502 Identification of problem soils
Input data sources
Optical: VHR1, VHR2, HR1, HR2
Radar: VHR2, HR1, HR2, MR1
Archive data has considerable value to show multi-temporal changes over decades to help identify and quantify active geomorphic processes such as river migration, coastal erosion, slope instability, flooding, etc.
Spatial resolution and coverage
Varies depending on input imagery used and client needs.
Low resolution DEM for basin wide exploration studies, higher resolution DEM and optical imagery (HR2 to VHR1) for development and infrastructure planning and design.
Minimum Mapping Unit (MMU)
Variable, depending on source data resolution and project requirements.
Accuracy / constraints
Varies depending on input imagery and user requirements.
Thematic accuracy: 80-90% in areas of low vegetation cover and density.
spatial accuracy: The goal would be 1 pixel, but depends on reference data.
Accuracy assessment approach & quality control measures
Comparison with any published geological/geomorphological mapping or reports.
Field reconnaissance mapping, and in-situ measurements.
Frequency / timeliness
Varies depending on user requirements.
Observation frequency: Typically only one date is required and can be archive data, subject to project requirements.
Timeliness of delivery: Usually off-the-shelf data can be utilised. Commissioned data may be required in some cases e.g., for collection of VHR1 stereo data for high resolution DEM production.
Availability from commercial suppliers and other agencies.
New acquisitions can be requested globally for higher resolution data.
Archives products available for public search.
Delivery / output format
# of Pages:
Internal – Project consortium and science partners
External – ESA
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