Rocky Mountain (56th Annual) and Cordilleran (100th Annual) Joint Meeting (May 3–5, 2004)

Paper No. 23
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-5:00 PM


COLTER, Alex James, Geological Sciences, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID 83844-3022 and FAIRLEY, Jerry P., Geological Sciences, Univ of Idaho, Moscow, ID 83844-3022,

Geothermal energy can be exploited for a number of beneficial uses, including heating, recreation, and power generation. For earth and planetary scientists, the associations between geothermal fluids and the faults, fissures, or cracks along which they migrate, provide a means to investigate a variety of geologic and biologic phenomena using the relatively young discipline of remote sensing. This opportunity to study the earth’s natural processes is not limited to the terrestrial environment, but may be applied as well to the study of celestial bodies, such as Mars or Europa. Using remote sensing technology, researchers have a relatively efficient way to scan large portions of planetary surfaces, identify geologic structures associated with geothermal areas, and measure their physical characteristics, such as temperature and chemical composition. Unfortunately, low cost images available from orbiting satellites are of inadequate spatial and spectral resolutions for many research tasks, and costs increase dramatically for higher resolution images. As a result, there is a need to synthesize existing research on geothermal exploration with remote sensing, to create a framework within which researchers can make informed decisions regarding the costs and benefits of using remote sensing technologies in their research. This investigation provides an overview of previous applications of remote sensing in the earth and planetary sciences, and a discussion of useful techniques and difficulties encountered; in addition, geostatistical simulations of a hydrothermal structure in southeast Oregon are used to examine the question of what is an adequate instrument resolution (spectral, spatial, radiometric, and temporal) for obtaining cost-effective images of geologic structures. The results of this study will provide researchers with a solid background for planning and executing future investigations using remote sensing technologies.