This paper shows that a multitemporal, multiscale, and multisource remote sensing dataset represents an efficient tool for studying morphotectonics in seismically active areas, with an application in Siberia. The focus is placed on the use of high resolution imagery including Corona, Orbview 3, Ikonos 2 (available on Google Earth), and Landsat images combined with four different digital elevation models (DEMs) built using various satellite data. DEMs are the version 2 SRTM 3 arc-second and version 3 SRTM 1 arc-second released by USGS, the X-SAR DEM, and the version 2 Aster GDEM.
In the specific case of the Gorny Altai, the remote sensing dataset composed of DEMs and satellite images provide relevant evidence of the geomorphological consequences of the 2003 Altai earthquake characterized by large landslides, block tilting, and ground-cracks. Ikonos imagery reveals the en-échelon faults compatible with a dextral strike-skip faulting. Archive satellite data allow us detecting new faults generated by the earthquake, but also the pre-existing fault network, with a specific emphasis on the use of Corona archive from the 1960’s. The best global DEMs (SRTM 1 arc-second and Aster GDEM) are well-correlated. Generally, the Aster GDEM presents a lower horizontal accuracy than the SRTM DEM, whereas the vertical accuracy is relatively similar. In the case of the largest landslide induced by the 2003 Altai earthquake (about 1 km2), the comparison of the pre-seismic topographic profile obtained by SRTM and the post-seismic topographic profile obtained by Aster GDEM is of great interest. Following the landslide episode, it allows us defining a zone of depletion and a zone of accumulation. The limit between the hard Palaeozoic rocks (sandstone, etc.) and the loose Quaternary sediments appears clearly as a zone of weakness. Before the 2003 earthquake, a round track was already detected in the Corona images, corresponding either to an old landslide or a precursor stage of the major landslide.
More generally, the dextral strike-slip faulting is accompanied by the uplift of the northeastern segment, close to the Chagan Uzun block. In the Kuskunnur-Taltura-Chagan river area, this uplift is revealed by the abnormal elevation of the Kuskunnur river compared to the elevation of the Taltura river. The present geomorphological study is a complement to dendrochronological and radiocarbon dating of earthquake triggered landslides, rockfalls and seismically cut fossil soils.