Temporal variations of natural soil salinity in an arid environment using satellite images


In many remote arid areas the scarce amount of conventional soil salinity data precludes detailed analyses of salinity variations for the purpose of predicting its impact on agricultural production. A tool that is an appropriate surrogate for on-ground testing in determining temporal variations of soil salinity is Landsat satellite data. In this study six Landsat scenes over El Cuervo, a closed basin adjacent to the middle Rio Conchos basin in northern Mexico, were used to show temporal variation of natural salts from 1986 to 2005. Natural salts were inferred from ground reference data and spectral responses. Transformations used were Tasseled Cap, Principal Components and several (band) ratios. Classification of each scene was performed from the development of Regions Of Interest derived from geochemical data collected by SGM, spectral responses derived from ENVI software, and a small amount of field data collected by the authors. The resultant land cover classes showed a relationship between climatic drought and areal coverage of natural salts. When little precipitation occurred three months prior to the capture of the Landsat scene, approximately 15%–20% of the area was classified as salt. This is compared to practically no classified salt in the wetter years of 1992 and 2005 Landsat scenes.


Geography, Geology, and Planning

Document Type





chihuahua, El Cuervo playa lake, landsat, remote sensing, soil salinity

Publication Date


Journal Title

Journal of South American Earth Sciences