Airborne thermal-infrared multispectral scanner (TIMS) data of the Iron Hill carbonatite-alkalic igneous rock complex in south-central Colorado are analyzed using a new spectral emissivity ratio algorithm and confirmed by field examination using existing 1:24 000-scale geologic maps and petrographic studies. Color composite images show that the alkalic rocks could be clearly identified and that differences existed among alkalic rocks in several parts of the complex. An unsupervised classification algorithm defines four alkalic rock classes within the complex: biotitic pyroxenite, uncompahgrite, augitic pyroxenite, and fenite + nepheline syenite. Felsic rock classes defined in the surrounding country rock are an extensive class consisting of tuff, granite, and felsite, a less extensive class of granite and felsite, and quartzite. The general composition of the classes can be determined from comparisons of the TIMS spectra with laboratory spectra. Carbonatite rocks are not classified, and we attribute that to the fact that dolomite, the predominant carbonate mineral in the complex, has a spectral feature that falls between TIMS channels 5 and 6. Mineralogical variability in the fenitized granite contributed to the nonuniform pattern of the fenite-nepheline syenite class. The biotitic pyroxenite, which resulted from alteration of the pyroxenite, is spatially associated and appears to be related to narrow carbonatite dikes and sills. Results from a linear unmixing algorithm suggest that the detected spatial extent of the two mixed felsic rock classes was sensitive to the amount of vegetation cover. These results illustrate that spectral thermal infrared data can be processed to yield compositional information that can be a cost-effective tool to target mineral exploration, particularly in igneous terranes.
Additional publication details
Lithologic analysis from multispectral thermal infrared data of the alkalic rock complex at Iron Hill, Colorado