Lithological mapping of Northwest Argentina with remote sensing data using tonal, textural and contextual features

  • Robin B. Oldfield

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Tonal, textural and contextual properties are used in manual photointerpretation of remotely sensed data. This study has used these three attributes to produce a lithological map of semi arid northwest Argentina by semi automatic computer classification procedures of remotely sensed data. Three different types of satellite data were investigated, these were LANDSAT MSS, TM and SIR-A imagery. Supervised classification procedures using tonal features only produced poor classification results. LANDSAT MSS produced classification accuracies in the range of 40 to 60%, while accuracies of 50 to 70% were achieved using LANDSAT TM data. The addition of SIR-A data produced increases in the classification accuracy. The increased classification accuracy of TM over the MSS is because of the better discrimination of geological materials afforded by the middle infra red bands of the TM sensor. The maximum likelihood classifier consistently produced classification accuracies 10 to 15% higher than either the minimum distance to means or decision tree classifier, this improved accuracy was obtained at the cost of greatly increased processing time. A new type of classifier the spectral shape classifier, which is computationally as fast as a minimum distance to means classifier is described. However, the results for this classifier were disappointing, being lower in most cases than the minimum distance or decision tree procedures. The classification results using only tonal features were felt to be unacceptably poor, therefore textural attributes were investigated. Texture is an important attribute used by photogeologists to discriminate lithology. In the case of TM data, texture measures were found to increase the classification accuracy by up to 15%. However, in the case of the LANDSAT MSS data the use of texture measures did not provide any significant increase in the accuracy of classification. For TM data, it was found that second order texture, especially the SGLDM based measures, produced highest classification accuracy. Contextual post processing was found to increase classification accuracy and improve the visual appearance of classified output by removing isolated misclassified pixels which tend to clutter classified images. Simple contextual features, such as mode filters were found to out perform more complex features such as gravitational filter or minimal area replacement methods. Generally the larger the size of the filter, the greater the increase in the accuracy. Production rules were used to build a knowledge based system which used tonal and textural features to identify sedimentary lithologies in each of the two test sites. The knowledge based system was able to identify six out of ten lithologies correctly.
Date of Award1988
Original languageEnglish


  • Lithological mapping
  • Northwest Argentina
  • remote sensing data
  • tonal
  • textural
  • contextual features

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