Visible through shortwave (VSWIR) spectral reflectance of the geologic units across the basal Tertiary nonconformity (BTN) is characterized at three spatially disparate locations in California. At two of these sites, location-specific spectral endmembers are obtained from AVIRIS imaging spectroscopy and linear spectral mixture models are used to visualize spatial patterns in chemical weathering associated with the BTN. Weathering patterns are found to match well with traditional geologic maps of the BTN at each site, but results show more spatially detailed quantitative geologic information about the spatial variability of chemical weathering near the nonconformity than is possible in a traditional geologic map. Spectral endmembers and unmixing results are also compared across locations. At the two locations with AVIRIS coverage, strong absorptions centered near 2200 nm are observed, consistent with previous geologic publications reporting intense chemical weathering at the BTN. Information loss associated with multispectral sampling of the reflectance continuum is also examined by resampling endmembers from the Maniobra location to mimic the spectral response functions of the WorldView 3, Sentinel-2 and Landsat 8 sensors. Simulated WorldView 3 data most closely approximate the full information content of the AVIRIS observations, resulting in nearly unbiased unmixing results for both endmembers. Mean fraction differences are −0.02 and +0.03 for weathered and unweathered endmembers, respectively. Sentinel-2 and Landsat 8 are unable to distinguish narrow, deep SWIR absorptions from changes in the overall amplitude of the SWIR spectral continuum, resulting in information loss and biased unmixing results. Finally, we characterize a third location using Sentinel-2 observations only. At this site we also find spectrally distinct features associated with several lithologies, providing new information relevant to the mapping of geologic contacts which is neither present in high spatial resolution visible imagery, nor in published geologic mapping. Despite these limitations, the spatial pattern of the Sentinel-2 and Landsat 8 fraction estimates is sufficiently similar to that of the WorldView 3 and AVIRIS fraction estimates to be useful for mapping purposes in cases where hyperspectral data are unavailable.
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