Application of Landsat MSS Digital Data for Pleistocene Glacial Geomorphology

James S. Aber, Earth Science, Emporia State University, Emporia, KS 66801 USA.

Satellite remote sensing of the Earth has some important advantages for collecting geomorphic observations compared to conventional field surveys--synoptic view, repetitive coverage, and multispectral character. Landsat multispectral scanner (MSS) data represent more than 20 years of Earth observations from space. These datasets are available at modest cost. Powerful computers, sophisticated GIS software, and low-cost data lead to diverse opportunities for Landsat applications in earth science.

Glacial geomorphology is revealed on Landsat images by patterns of vegetation, water bodies, soils, and morphology. These patterns reflect the glacial character of surficial sediments, exposed bedrock surfaces, land slope and aspect, and drainage, as modified by postglacial processes and human landuse. Major elements of glacial geomorphology are readily apparent on Landsat images, for regions of Late Wisconsin (Vistulian) glaciation, and some elements of glacial geomorphology are also visible on images of older glacial terrain. Glacial landforms include: large end moraines, hummocky moraine, Rogen moraine, ground moraine, tunnel valleys, melt-water spillways, eskers, outwash fans and deltas, proglacial lake and sea basins, ice-thrust ridges, streamlined terrain, and drumlins.

Landsat images are excellent sources of data for medium-scale (1:100,000) mapping of glacial geomorphology and often supply more information than portrayed on conventional topographic maps or air photos at equivalent scales. The value of Landsat images may be enhanced by combination with other forms of data, such as digital elevation models (DEM). Geomorphic assemblages depicted on Landsat imagery may be used to reconstruct regional ice sheet limits and glacier dynamics. Applications of Landsat imagery will be described for glacial geomorphology in North Dakota (USA) and in Poland.

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