Nonlinear analysis of drainage systems to examine surface deformation: an example from Potwar Plateau (Northern Pakistan)
- Remote Sensing Group, Institute of Geology, Freiberg University of Mining and Technology, 09599, Freiberg, Germany
Abstract. We devise a procedure in order to characterize the relative vulnerability of the Earth's surface to tectonic deformation using the geometrical characteristics of drainage systems. The present study focuses on the nonlinear analysis of drainage networks extracted from Digital Elevation Models in order to localize areas strongly influenced by tectonics. We test this approach on the Potwar Plateau in northern Pakistan. This area is regularly affected by damaging earthquakes. Conventional studies cannot pinpoint the zones at risk, as the whole region is characterized by a sparse and diffuse seismicity. Our approach is based on the fact that rivers tend to linearize under tectonic forcing. Thus, the low fractal dimensions of the Swan, Indus and Jehlum Rivers are attributed to neotectonic activity. A detailed textural analysis is carried out to investigate the linearization, heterogeneity and connectivity of the drainage patterns. These textural aspects are quantified using the fractal dimension, as well as lacunarity and succolarity analysis. These three methods are complimentary in nature, i.e. objects with similar fractal dimensions can be distinguished further with lacunarity and/or succolarity analysis. We generate maps of fractal dimensions, lacunarity and succolarity values using a sliding window of 2.5 arc minutes by 2.5 arc minutes (2.5'×2.5'). These maps are then interpreted in terms of land surface vulnerability to tectonics. This approach allowed us to localize several zones where the drainage system is highly structurally controlled on the Potwar Plateau. The region located between Muree and Muzaffarabad is found to be prone to destructive events whereas the area westward from the Indus seems relatively unaffected. We conclude that a nonlinear analysis of the drainage system is an efficient additional tool to locate areas likely to be affected by massive destructing events affecting the Earth's surface and therefore threaten human activities.