Science

Peeling our landscape bare

Geoscience Australia has stripped Australia’s landscape bare through the first continent-scale, cloud-free spatial views of Australia’s soil and rock cover.

The enhanced geological mapping from the national Landsat 8 Barest Earth mosaic is one of three new datasets added to the free-access National Map website.

Geoscience Australia’s head of Mineral Systems, Dr Richard Blewett, said the new dataset is the result of trials to find the best way to map Australia’s soil and rocks without ‘noise’ such as cloud cover and vegetation.

“These additions are a prime example of how we can find innovative ways to explore Australia’s mineral potential by combining satellite imagery and knowledge.

“Our approach uses satellite data collected since 2013, to accurately estimate the barest view of Australia based on soil and rock signatures. The algorithm was applied to a petabyte-sized dataset using the National Computational Infrastructure, Australia’s fastest super computer.

“The potential uses for this bare Earth data are vast – it provides enhanced geological mapping and assist mineral exploration, digital soil mapping, soil health assessments, land degradation monitoring, and environmental management.

“This dataset is particularly relevant for the current users of National Map, including the mineral exploration sector, the agriculture sector and environmental managers.

“We also released our Multi-Scale Topographic Position Image and the Weathering Intensity Model, which are both important in natural resource management.

“By having enhanced soil, topography and mineral properties mapped, our stakeholders can make informed decisions about how best to manage the land area they have an interested in.

“Through the Multi-Scale Topographic Position Image, Geoscience Australia has captured variations in topography. The product is derived from a digital elevation model and gives a rich illustration of landform features. It has broad uses in understanding geomorphology and hydrology, along with mapping regolith and soils.”

The Weathering Intensity Model shows the degree to which the surface or near-surface is weathered. The product has applications in mineral exploration and natural resource management.”

This story was published in The Fence magazine.

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