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Rock Chips Summer 2011

Rock Chips Summer 2011

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A quarterly newsletter by the Alberta Geological Survey
A quarterly newsletter by the Alberta Geological Survey

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Categories:Types, Research, Science
Published by: Alberta Geological Survey on Aug 22, 2011
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved


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New Approaches to Sur 
cial Geology Mapping inNorthern Alberta
As part of a multi-year initiative, the AlbertaGeological Survey (AGS) is continuingits regional sur
cial geology mappingprogram in northern Alberta. These mapsaccommodate the increasing need forgeological information in northern Alberta tosupport infrastructure development, mineralexploration, forestry and land-use planning.
Previous Approach
cial geology mapping traditionally involvesestablishing the lithology of sediments and associatedlandforms through
eld observations, which arecombined with the geomorphological interpretation of stereoscopic airphotos. These provide a geologist witha 3-D view of the landscape, allowing the sediment-landform associations to be mapped according to theirorigin, distribution and spatial extent.In northern Alberta, this approach works well inagricultural areas where the limited vegetation coverallows an unimpeded view of the landscape and whereaccessibility permits examining and ground-truthingsediments. However, as the mapping program hasprogressed into more remote regions of the boreal forest,these methods have proven ineffective, particularlyin areas where
eld access is limited and the densevegetation cover obscures underlying landforms.Geological interpretation using airphotos is furtherhampered by vegetation patterns caused by non-geological factors, such as tree health, forest
re, treeregrowth and anthropogenic ground disturbance.Recent AGS sur
cial geology maps (Maps 553, 554 and555) are based on a new mapping approach developedat the AGS, which incorporates airborne LiDAR (LightDetection and Ranging) imagery. This new approachovercomes the ‘vegetation problem’ and allows ageologist to accurately interpret the landscape based onthe sedimentology and geomorphology, while still usingthe vegetation patterns and the clues that they provideabout the nature of the underlying sediments.
The ongoing status of sur 
cial geology mapping inAlberta.
Rock Chips
is published four times a year by theAlberta Geological Survey in the spring,summer, fall and winter.Individual articles, statistics and other information in this publication may bereproduced or quoted as long as the ERCB/AGSis credited.Past and present issues of 
Rock Chips
may beviewed on the AGS website at
AGS reports are available for download for freefrom our website at
.Energy Resources Conservation BoardAlberta Geological Survey#402, 4999 - 98th AvenueEdmonton, AlbertaCanada T6B 2X3Tel: (780) 422-1927Fax: (780) 422-1918E-mail:AGS-Info@ercb.caClients in the Calgary area may view AGSpublications atEnergy Resources Conservation BoardLibrarySuite 1000, 250 – 5 Street SWCalgary, Alberta T2P 0R4Tel: (403) 297-8242.
Story Contact Information
The following AGS staff members may be contactedfor further information on their articles or citations.
New Approaches to Sur
cial Geology Mapping inNorthern Alberta
Steven Pawley (780) 644-5505
Where in Alberta is AGS this Summer
Corey Froese (780) 427-2872
Dr. Mark Fenton Receives SAGE Award
Mark Fenton (780) 427-1764Staff may also be contacted via e-mail by enteringthe author’s
rst name.last name@ercb.caComments and suggestions for Rock Chips may besent to Maryanne Protz at maryanne.protz@ercb.ca
LiDAR-Based Methodology
Digital elevation models (DEMs) derived from
high-resolution, airborne LiDAR are becomingincreasingly available for northern Alberta. Thismethod uses rapid, infrared laser pulses that measurethe distance to the ground, creating a ‘point cloud’ omillions of elevation measurements. In areas wherethe ground surface is covered by vegetation, a singlelaser pass can generate multiple returns from both thevegetation and the underlying ground surface, withthe last pulse (
nal return) generating the groundtopography beneath the vegetation. Although fewerpulses reach the ground in densely vegetated areas,the high density of pulses means that LiDAR can stillmeasure the ground topography with a high degree of precision. This technology offers many advantages overairphoto analysis or other remote-sensing methods (e.g.,satellite imagery) for geomorphological investigations.The LiDAR ‘bare-earth’ model, created from the
nalreturns of the pulse data, is used for sur
cial geologymapping and has a 1 m horizontal grid spacing andabout a 30 cm vertical accuracy. This is used to generateshaded-relief images that simulate the effects of shadowscast by sunlight across the landscape, highlighting subtlegeomorphological features. Relief-shading, however, issubject to strong directional bias, with linear landformsonly being highlighted when oriented perpendicular tothe chosen sunlight direction. To overcome this, shaded-relief images are generated from eight illumination
Example of Landsat 7 satellite imagery (top), LiDAR
rst returndigital surface model (middle) and shaded-relief, bare-earth model(bottom) of NTS 84A/SW. Glacial lake paleoshorelines are clearlyvisible in the bare-earth model but are completely masked by thevegetation in the other imagery.
2 Rock Chips Summer 2011
directions and then reduced into a single image usingprincipal component analysis (PCA), which statisticallyremoves redundancy in the data with minimal loss of information.LiDAR shaded-relief images have provenhighly effective in landform mapping. However,geomorphology alone is not enough to delineate theboundaries of all sediment-landform associations,particularly in areas of low relief. Spatial variations inthe lithology of sur
cial sediments are also documentedby differences in the overlying vegetation cover. Inthe absence of distinctive geomorphological changes,such differences are more accurately detected usingoptical remote-sensing methods. We integrated thisinformation within the new mapping process by usinghigh-resolution, SPOT-5 satellite imagery and 1:60 000scale airphotos that are orthorecti
ed using a LiDARDEM to remove topographic distortions and producea planimetrically correct image. We then viewed thesephotos using ERDAS’ Stereo Analyst
for ESRI
 ArcGIS 9.3 and 3-D glasses or a stereoscopic viewingattachment. This allows a geologist to view a full 3-Drepresentation of the landscape and vegetation featureswithin the ArcGIS environment. Digital stereoscopicairphotos offer several advantages over their analoguecounterparts, because the scale can be varied up to theresolution of the photograph to identify small-scalefeatures. Image-processing methods, such as contraststretches, can further enhance landscape features.To map areas characterized by extensive wetland cover,Landsat 7 multi-spectral images are used. Landsat7 bands 1 to 5 and 7 are processed using PCA toreduce data redundancy between bands and highlightdifferences between peatland types (e.g., fen and bog).When paired with LiDAR data, all of these imagerysources can be turned into synthetic stereo pairs for 3-Dstereoscopic viewing. Future maps will be based on aquantitative approach to mapping these organic deposits,using the different spectral signatures of bog, fen anddifferent forest types within an automated classi
cationapproach. This will reduce map production time whileenhancing the systematic description of these deposits.
Mobile GIS
The combination of LiDAR and satellite imagery canbe used quantitatively as a predictive mapping tool thatgeologists can use to derive preliminary interpretationsregarding the distribution of organic deposits andsur
cial sediments. During this summer’s
eldwork,AGS geologists will test modern, ruggedized tablet PCswith integrated GPS units. These tablet PCs will enablea geologist to integrate multiple data sources in real-time to provide better evaluation of sediment-landformassociations while in the
eld. Furthermore, the PCswill carry the full range of imagery and preliminarygeological interpretations, with sur
cial geologyfeatures being added or modi
ed while in the
eld. Asigni
cant advantage of this technology is that draftversions of 
eld maps can be assembled and continuallyevaluated in a 3-D environment while mapping.
New Map Products
The integration of remote-sensing technologies hasincreased the effectiveness and accuracy of sur
cialgeology mapping, resulting in new map products fornorthern Alberta. The Alberta Geological Surveyreleased the
rst of these during 2010 to 2011 for theLesser Slave River area (Map 553, NTS 83O/SE), theFaust area (Map 554, NTS 83O/SW) and the ThickwoodHills area (Map 555, NTS 84A/NE). These maps show asigni
cant increase in detail when compared to adjacentmap areas for which only airphotos were used in thegeological interpretation. Speci
cally, the number of recognized sediment units and landforms, including
uting, hummocky moraine, doughnut moraineand gravel deposits, is at least two times greater. Incomparison to adjacent map areas, we also found morethan three times the area covered by mass-movementdeposits and landslides, which are readily detectedusing LiDAR imagery. This information is presentedon the maps as a transparency over the LiDAR relief-shaded image, which provides a visual link betweenthe geological interpretation and the geomorphology.In turn, this further enhances the map quality andcon
dence in the geological interpretations. These mapsand accompanying digital datasets are available from theAGS website atwww.ags.gov.ab.ca/publications.
Shaded-relief, principal component analysis image showing tracts of parallel, low-amplitude, ice-moulded bedforms (
uting) across a tillplain, close to North Wabasca Lake (NTS 84A/SW).
Rock Chips Summer 2011 3

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