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Impact of environmental factors on the spectral characteristics of lava surfaces: field spectrometry of basaltic lava flows on Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain

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We report on spectral reflectance measurements of basaltic lava flows on Tenerife Island, Spain. Lava flow surfaces of different ages, surface roughness and elevations were systematically measured using a field spectroradiometer operating in the range of 350–2500 nm. Surface roughness, oxidation and lichen coverage were documented at each measured site. Spectral properties vary with age and morphology of lava. Pre-historical lavas with no biological coverage show a prominent increase in spectral reflectance in the 400–760 nm range and a decrease in the 2140–2210 nm range. Pāhoehoe surfaces have higher reflectance values than ʻaʻā ones and attain a maximum reflectance at wavelengths < 760 nm. Lichen-covered lavas are characterized by multiple lichen-related absorption and reflection features. We demonstrate that oxidation and lichen growth are two major factors controlling spectra of Tenerife lava surfaces and, therefore, propose an oxidation index and a lichen index to quantify surface alterations of lava flows: (1) the oxidation index is based on the increase of the slope of the spectral profile from blue to red as the field-observed oxidation level strengthens; and (2) the lichen index is based on the spectral reflectance in the 1660–1725 nm range, which proves to be highly correlated with lichen coverage documented in the field. The two spectral indices are applied to Landsat ETM+ and Hyperion imagery of the study area for mapping oxidation and lichen coverage on lava surfaces, respectively. Hyperion is shown to be capable of discriminating different volcanic surfaces, i.e., tephra vs. lava and oxidized lava vs. lichen-covered lava. Our study highlights the value of field spectroscopic measurements to aid interpretation of lava flow characterization using satellite images and of the effects of environmental factors on lava surface evolution over time, and, therefore, has the potential to contribute to the mapping as well as dating of lava surfaces.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16986-17012
JournalRemote Sensing
Volume7
Issue number12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 16 Dec 2015

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