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Phase I Results From Ground and Hyperspectral Remote Sensing Analysis of Natural and Anthropogenic Acidic Drainage

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  • This presentation discusses NASA-funded research on the ability of hyperspectral remote sensing to map diagnostic acid rock drainage (ARD) mineralogy that adversely affects water quality within a watershed and to determine the relative contributions of natural ARD sources of metals and acidity to that drainage. Ground-based reflectance spectroscopy, combined with water chemistry, is used to identify mineralogical and chemical variations throughout a watershed. Integrated with hyperspectral data acquired from airborne remote sensing platforms, such as the NASA Airborne Visible Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS) sensor, a methodology has been developed that should improve environmental assessments and tracking of impacts on and from drainages. Phase I of this project focuses on a drainage basin (Lake Creek), tributary to the upper Arkansas River in central Colorado, which is impacted by natural acid rock drainage from areas of high-sulfide hydrothermal alteration. This project builds upon research and inventory efforts by the Colorado Geological Survey (CGS) to identify hydrothermal alteration that is the primary source or is contributing to acidic and toxic drainage in Colorado. This presentation will cover ground and airborne hyperspectral remote sensing techniques and results and water analyses for seasonal high-flow and low-flow conditions in Lake Creek. Identifying correlations between mineralogy, especially mineralogy that can be identified through airborne remote sensing, and water chemistry is a key focus of this project. Of particular interest are low-pH iron phases such as jarosite, ferrihydrite, schwertmannite, copiapite, and transitional amorphous phases as well as AlOH phases from higher, although still acidic, pH environments which are observed to mix with the iron precipitates within the streams draining from the hydrothermal systems. Drainage in the Lake Creek watershed derives from the Grizzly Peak caldera (Oligocene), which exhibits extensive hydrothermal alteration. Alteration types include silicic, quartz-sericite, quartz-sericite-pyrite, advanced argillic, and argillic. By understanding the chemistry of a naturally impacted drainage and its relationship to the surrounding geology, the project goal is to allow more efficient and complete identification of such sources in mineralised terranes through remote sensing technology.

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