The mineralogical indices the Quartz Index (QI), Carbonate Index (CI) and Mafic Index (MI) for ASTER multispectral thermal infrared (TIR) data were applied to various geological materials for regional lithological mapping on the Tibetan Plateau. Many lithological and structural features are not currently well understood in the central Tibetan Plateau, including the distribution of mafic-ultramafic rocks related to the suture zones, the quartzose and carbonate sedimentary rocks accreted to the Eurasian continent, and sulfate layers related to the Tethys and neo-Tethys geological setting. These rock types can now be mapped with the interpretation of the processed ASTER TIR images described in this paper. A methodology is described for the processing of ASTER TIR data applied to a very wide region of the Tibetan Plateau. The geometrical and radiometric performance of the processed images is discussed, and the advantages of using ortho-rectified data are shown. The challenges of using ASTER data with a small footprint in addition to selecting an appropriate subset of scenes are also examined. ASTER scenes possess a narrow swath width when compared to LANDSAT data (60 km vs. 185 km, respectively). Furthermore, the ASTER data archive is vast, consisting of approximately three million images. These details can present an added level of complexity during an image processing workflow. Finally, geological interpretations made on the maps of the indices are compared with prior geological field studies. The results from the investigations suggest that the indices perform well in the classification of quartzose rocks based on the carbonate and mafic mineral content, in addition to the granitic rocks based on the feldspar content.
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