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Mapping Potentially Asbestos-Bearing Rocks Using Imaging Spectroscopy

Geology, vol. 37 no. 8, p. 763-766, 2009, doi:10.1130/G30114A.1

by Gregg A. Swayze, Raymond F. Kokaly, Chris T. Higgins, John P. Clinkenbeard, Roger N. Clark, Heather A. Lowers, and Stephen J. Sutley

Swayze, G.A., R.F. Kokaly, C.T. Higgins, J.P. Clinkenbeard, R.N. Clark, H.A. Lowers, and S.J. Sutley, 2009, Mapping potentially asbestos-bearing rocks using imaging spectroscopy: Geology, v. 37, no. 8, p. 763-766; doi:1130/G30114A.1


Rock and soil that may contain naturally occurring asbestos (NOA), a known human carcinogen, were mapped in the Sierra Nevada, California, using the Airborne Visible/InfraRed Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS) to determine if these materials could be uniquely identified with spectroscopy. Such information can be used to prepare or refine maps of areas that may contain minerals that can be asbestiform, such as serpentine and tremolite/actinolite, which were the focus of this study. Although thick vegetation can conceal underlying rock and soil, use of linear-mixture spectra calculated from spectra of dry grass and serpentine allowed detection of serpentine in some parts of the study area with up to ~80% dry-grass cover. Chaparral vegetation, which was dominantly, but not exclusively, found in areas underlain by serpentinized ultramafic rocks, was also mapped. Overall, field-checking at 201 sites indicated highly accurate identification by AVIRIS of mineral (94%) and vegetation (89%) categories. Practical applications of AVIRIS to mapping areas that may contain NOA include locating roads that are surfaced with serpentine aggregate, identifying sites that may require enhanced dust control or other safety measures, and filling gaps in geologic mapping where field access is limited.

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This page is maintained by: Dr. Gregg A. Swayze gswayze at speclab.cr.usgs.gov
Last modified November 5, 2009