Orbital thermal infrared (TIR) remote sensing is an important tool for characterizing geologic surfaces on Earth and Mars. However, deposition of material from volcanic or eolian activity results in bedrock surfaces becoming significantly mantled over time, hindering the accuracy of TIR compositional analysis. Moreover, interplay between particle size, albedo, composition and surface roughness add complexity to these interpretations. Apparent Thermal Inertia (ATI) is the measure of the resistance to temperature change and has been used to determine parameters such as grain/block size, density/mantling, and the presence of subsurface soil moisture/ice. Our objective is to document the quantitative relationship between ATI derived from orbital visible/near infrared (VNIR) and thermal infrared (TIR) data and tephra fall mantling of the Mono Craters and Domes (MCD) in California, which were chosen as an analog for partially mantled flows observed at Arsia Mons volcano on Mars. The ATI data were created from two images collected ~12 h apart by the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) instrument. The results were validated with a quantitative framework developed using fieldwork that was conducted at 13 pre-chosen sites. These sites ranged in grain size from ash-sized to meter-scale blocks and were all rhyolitic in composition. Block size and mantling were directly correlated with ATI. Areas with ATI under 2.3 × 10−2
were well-mantled with average grain size below 4 cm; whereas values greater than 3.0 × 10−2
corresponded to mantle-free surfaces. Correlation was less accurate where checkerboard-style mixing between mantled and non-mantled surfaces occurred below the pixel scale as well as in locations where strong shadowing occurred. However, the results validate that the approach is viable for a large majority of mantled surfaces on Earth and Mars. This is relevant for determining the volcanic history of Mars, for example. Accurate identification of non-mantled lava surfaces within an apparently well-mantled flow field on either planet provides locations to extract important mineralogical constraints on the individual flows using TIR data.
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