Remote sensing and geomorphometry for studying relief production in high mountains Academic Article uri icon


  • Mountain topography is the result of highly scale-dependent interactions involving climatic, tectonic, and surface processes. No complete understanding of the geodynamics of mountain building and topographic evolution yet exists, although numerous conceptual and physical models indicate that surficial erosion plays a significant role. Mapping and assessing landforms and erosion in mountain environments is essential in order to understand landscape denudation and complex feedback mechanisms. This requires the development and evaluation of new approaches in remote sensing and geomorphometry. The research herein evaluates the problem of topographic normalization of satellite imagery and demonstrates the use of terrain analysis using a digital elevation model (DEM) to evaluate the relief structure of the landscape in the western Himalaya. We specifically evaluated the Cosine-correction and Minnaert-correction methods to reduce spectral variation in imagery caused by the topography. Semivariogram analyses of the topography were used to examine the relationships between relief and surface processes. Remote-sensing results indicate that the Minnaert-correction method can be used to reduce the "topographic effect" in satellite imagery for mapping, although extreme radiance values are the result of not accounting for the diffuse-skylight and adjacent-terrain irradiance. Geomorphometry results indicate that river incision and glaciation can generate extreme relief, although the greatest mesoscale relief is produced by glaciation at high altitudes. At intermediate altitudes, warm-based glaciation was found to decrease relief. Our results indicate that glaciation can have a differential influence on the relief structure of the landscape. Collectively, our results indicate that scale-dependent analysis of the topography is required to address radiation transfer issues and the polygenetic nature of landscape denudation and relief production. 2003 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.

published proceedings

  • Geomorphology

author list (cited authors)

  • Bishop, M. P., Shroder, J. F., & Colby, J. D.

citation count

  • 118

complete list of authors

  • Bishop, Michael P||Shroder, John F||Colby, Jeffrey D

publication date

  • January 2003