We used a decorrelation-stretched image of Landsat Thematic Mapper (TM) Bands 1, 4, and 7 and field data to map and describe the main surficial units in the hyperarid Safsaf region in south-central Egypt. We show that the near-infrared bands on Landsat TM, which are sensitive to very subtle changes in mineralogy common to arid regions, significantly improve the geologist's capability to discriminate geologic units in desert regions. These data also provide the spatial and spectral information necessary to determine the migration patterns and provenance of eolian materials. The Safsaf area was the focus of our post flight field studies using Shuttle Imaging Radar (SIR) data following the discovery of buried paleochannels in North Africa. Most of the channels discernible on SIR images are not expressed in TM data, but traces of a few channels are present in both the SIR and the TM data within the Wadi Safsaf area. Here we present a detailed digital examination of the SIR and the TM-band reflectance and reflectance-ratio data at three locations of the more obvious surface expressions of the buried channels. Our results indicate that the TM expressions of the channels are not purely topographic but are more compositional in nature. Two possibilities may account for the TM expressions of the buried channels: 1) concentrations of windblown, iron-rich materials that accumulated along subtle curvilinear topograpohic traps, or 2) curvilinear exposures of an iron-rich underlying unit of the flat sand sheet. ?? 1993.
Additional publication details
Surficial geology of the Safsaf region, south-central Egypt, derived from remote-sensing and field data