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  • Product Sheet: Geomorphology map

Geomorphology map

Image credit: Beatona (Kuwait Official Environmental Portal)



Component products

Terrain Information



  • Seismic planning - areas of poor coupling
  • Seismic planning - identification of adverse terrain for trafficability
  • Surface geology mapping - mapping geological features
  • Surface geology mapping - structural interpretation
  • Surface geology mapping - lithological discrimination
  • Surface geology mapping - terrain evaluation and geo-morphology characterisation
  • Surface geology mapping - engineering geological evaluation
  • Environmental monitoring - baseline historic mapping of environment and ecosystems
  • Environmental monitoring - natural hazard risk analysis
  • Logistics planning and operations - facility siting, pipeline routing and roads development
  • Logistics planning and operations - monitoring of assets

Geo-information requirements

  • Terrain information
  • Topographic information
  • Detailed land use information

  • Detailed land cover information
  • Lithology, geological and structural properties of the near surface




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:

  • Geomorphology maps;
  • Terrain unit maps (incorporating lithology with terrain classes);
  • Shaded-relief maps; slope maps; aspect maps (raster); and
  • Hazard (geohazard) maps.

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.

Challenges Addressed

OTM:014  Forecasting sand dune migration

OTM:015  Geological and terrain base maps for development of environmental baseline

OTM:036  Geohazard exposure analysis

OTM:058  Identifying ground conditions susceptible to poor coupling

OTM:061  Forecasting river migration patterns

OTM:073  Identifying sources of building resources

OTM:074  Estimating ground bearing capacity

OTM:025  Early identification of potential hydrocarbon basins

OTM:046  Identifying variations in trafficability for seismic vehicle

OTM:053  Understanding the near-surface for explosive charge placement

OTM:044  Identifying steep terrain for seismic vehicles

OTM:054  Understanding the near-surface for anticipating seismic signal absorption properties

OTM:042  Identifying seasonal terrain changes e.g. for access

OTM:023  Infrastructure planning

HC:1102  Identify rock-strewn areas to avoid point loading

HC:1103  Identify soft and hard ground as areas of potentially poor source and receiver coupling

HC:1203  Identify areas with soft sediments to plan access and assess hazards

HC:1207  Identify claypan surfaces to be avoided

HC:1212  Identify sabkhas/salt lake areas

HC:2102  Understanding hydrogeology

HC:2201  Identify geological structure through landform

HC:2401  Identify geohazards and landscape change rates

HC:2501  Characterization of surface/near-surface structural geological properties for infrastructure planning

HC:2502  Identification of problem soils

HC:2503  Assessment of duricrusts and rock excavability

HC:5301  Planning and assessing borrow pits as source of aggregate material

HC:5306  Assessing terrain stability for infrastructure planning in permafrost environments

HC:5401  Monitor pipeline corridor hazards


Input data sources

Optical: VHR1, VHR2, HR1, HR2

Radar: VHR2, HR1, HR2, MR1

Supporting data:

  • Geological maps
  • Topographic maps
  • Published literature and reports
  • Digital elevation models (DEM)
  • Air photo interpretation

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

Data type:

  • Raster
  • Vector (depending on customer needs)

File format:

  • Geotiff
  • Shapefile or any other OGC standard file formats





Lead author:

Hatfield Consultants/ARUP

Peer reviwer:




Document Title:

Geomorphology Map

# of Pages:



Internal – Project consortium and science partners


External – ESA



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