Short Course: Imaging and Analyzing Active Faults with High Resolution Topography


A Joint OpenTopography, UNAVCO, NCALM and EarthScope short course
UNAVCO facility in Boulder, Colorado

April 18-19, 2016  

Supported by: OpenTopographyUNAVCONCALM, and Earthscope

Christopher Crosby, UNAVCO, Boulder, CO
Ramón ArrowsmithArizona State University, Tempe, AZ
Alana Williams, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ
Jessica Sutton, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ

Christopher CrosbyUNAVCO, Boulder, CO
Ramón Arrowsmith, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ


High resolution topographic data has become an important tool for earthquake scientists to make detailed observations and model surface evolution. Within the last decade, several efforts have been made to collect high resolution topographic (HRT) data for active faults (e.g. The B4 project, EarthScope, and numerous NCALM and USGS projects). These datasets are freely available online through OpenTopography, an NSF funded data distribution portal. The active faulting community has taken great interest in these exciting datasets, using them to generate new and important insights into earthquake processes. OpenTopography in partnership with UNAVCO, NCALM, and EarthScope will host a short course in Boulder, Colorado on April 18-19, 2016. This 2-day course will highlight recent research results and provide beginner to intermediate training on airborne and terrestrial lidar, and Structure from Motion technology, point cloud and raster-based data processing, and active fault-oriented analysis. We will emphasize fault trace and geomorphic mapping, topographic differencing, integration with other geospatial data, and data visualization and analysis approaches. Participants will have opportunities to discuss their research with other participants and the instructors.


Driving directions to UNAVCO from Denver international Airport

Send your flight details to and she will coordinate rental vehicles.

Monday, April 18: 8am-5pm, followed by an evening program, 7:30-9:30 pm

Tuesday, April 19: 8am-5pm

Hotel: The Hyatt Place | Driving directions airport to hotel | Driving Directions from Hyatt to Unavco | 

Additional Information Shared student lodging, breaks, and lunch will be covered for all participants. In addition, up to $200 for other travel expenses may be available with emphasis on students and early career scientists. We will be handing out and explaining the travel reimbursement process during the course.

If you plan to bring your own computer, the software that should be installed and functioning prior to arrival includes:

We have put together a reading list that contains a number of relevant papers that you may find helpful to review prior to the course (highest priority is shown in italics).

On Monday evening, we will have short presentations by participants. You are STRONGLY encouraged to make one of these short (<5 minutes/<5 slides) presentations. We will have a computer and projector there and will collect the presentations in advance for quick transitions. Given the big group, we will be strict on timing, but we do look forward to hearing about your work, your ideas, or even questions. This will be very informal!

DRAFT SCHEDULE (subject to change)

Monday, April 18th 2016



Instructor, Affiliation (Location)

8:30am Welcome, group introductions  

Introductory lectures:

Ramón Arrowsmith, Arizona State University
10:15am Break Provided

Introductory lectures, cont.:

Christopher Crosby, UNAVCO 
12:00pm Lunch (terrestial laser scanning demo) Provided

Introduction to point cloud visualization and analysis using CloudCompare and LAStools 

Arrowsmith & Crosby



Raster-based HRT analysis in ArcGIS: Data visualization, mapping, simple topographic differencing, hydrologic analysis

Older resources:

Arrowsmith & Crosby
5:30pm Return to hotel Dinner on your own
7:30pm Presentations from participants & social gathering (Hyatt, Meeting Space #3)

Tuesday, April 19th 2016



Instructor, Affiliation

8:30am Investments in high resolution topography: OpenTopography, UNAVCO, NCALM, and other resources Crosby

Lecture: Topographic Change Detection, ICP using CloudCompare, registering multiple topographic datasets, and topographic change detection

Older supporting resources:

  Break  Provided

Lecture: Structure from Motion (SfM)


12:00pm Lunch (collect SfM photos) Provided

Structure from Motion (SfM) demo

Considerations for Building SfM Machines for Use With Agisoft PhotoScan

Arrowsmith & Crosby

Exploratory Small Projects:

Individually or in groups, identify a small area of interest to perform a simple change detection or other geomorphic analysis. Use what you learned in yesterday afternoon and this morning's exercises, starting with an LAS file to explore and analyze the dataset of your choosing. A few example datasets for change detection are below, or use OpenTopography to find a dataset of interest and to download a point cloud file. By 4pm, make 3 (max) slides, that summarize: 1) Problem/question, 2) workflow/analysis, 3) result.

Sample data & supporting info:

  • White Sands dunes sample data
  • Iwate-Miyagi 2008 EQ differential data (DEM as points)
  • Other ideas: Parkfield, CA (B4 overlaps EarthScope); northern Bay Area; Wasatch front; Boulder, CO; southern Sonoma County, CA (earthflow); South Fork Eel River, CA (Mendocino/Humbolt Counties, CA); Valles Caldera National Preserve, NM; Salton Sea, CA; coastal central CA.
Crosby & Arrowsmith 

Project Discussion

4:30pm Final discussion, Q&A All