Waste site characterization through digital analysis of historical aerial photographs at Los Alamos National Laboratory and Eglin Air Force Base Page: 5 of 18
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closest to the center, or principal point, reduces the inherent distortion effects due to view angle
and terrain relief.
The most useful historical aerial photographs were from 1935, 1946, 1949, 1958, and 1972.
These photos were chosen for analysis by digital techniques. Orthophoto coverage of the area was
available from a more recent (1991) aerial survey of the Los Alamos area. Two orthophotos
covered the MDA-F area. These orthophotos provided a base image for mapping of the waste site.
The 1946 and 1949 oblique photos were the only ones available which were of good quality and
contained sufficient detail of MDA-F during the period when the area was being used for disposal
purposes. These acquisitions lacked overlapping pairs of photos. Preliminary comparisons with
the vertical photos from the remaining dates pointed to a necessity for transforming the oblique
photos so they could be more easily compared.
The digitized and transformed historical aerial photographs are shown in Figs. 2a through 2f. The
transformations resampled the digitized photographs so that they matched in scale, orientation, and
extent. These images were studied on an individual basis and animated or "flickered" on-screen to
view changes in the site through time. A physical history for MDA-F was derived from these
Large changes in the site can be seen by comparing the 1935 and 1946 images (Figs. 2f and 2e).
The 1935 image captures the mesa when it was being farmed extensively. Structures and furrows
can be seen in this image. Magnified stereoscopic viewing of overlapping photos from the 1935
survey was used as an aid to interpret this digital image (Fig. 2f) because of the coarse spatial
resolution incurred by the small scale of the original photo and the 600 dpi digitization limit of the
scanner. The structures appear to be cabins, corals, pens, and small garden plots of a homestead.
Three shrub oak thickets are also visible. These thickets are present in every image studied and
serve as good reference features. The 1946 image shows areas of disturbed soil, a large mound,
two open pits, and unimproved roads. The aerial photograph from which this image was derived
was taken November 1, 1946, just after disposal activity was documented to have started on May
15, 1946. Thus, this image provides excellent indications of early disposal activity.
Minor changes in the site can be seen by comparing the 1946 and 1949 images (Figs. 2d and 2e).
The timbered pit has been filled in, probably after being filled with waste material. The areas of
disturbed soil, the large mound, and unimproved roads can still be seen. The main road has been
partially paved from the west. Five circular anomalies just west of the large mound were found in
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Van Eeckhout, E.; Pope, P.; Wells, B.; Rofer, C. & Martin, B. Waste site characterization through digital analysis of historical aerial photographs at Los Alamos National Laboratory and Eglin Air Force Base, article, May 1, 1995; New Mexico. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc702654/m1/5/: accessed January 22, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.