Techniques for the study of outcrop geology have gone through a paradigm shift in the last decade. Traditional techniques such as analogue photography, logging and manual mapping using pens and pencils have been complemented and partly replaced by digital techniques. These digital techniques include LIDAR scanning, photorealistic mapping, remote sensing techniques and digital mapping tools. Recording methods have switched from paper to handheld computer tablets, GPS and digital data. The digital techniques allow for much higher precision and efficiency in acquisition of field geological data. The techniques complement but does not replace traditional scientific insight and empirical data when interpreting the outcrops. The combination of digital outcrop data with behind-the-outcrop borehole and geophysical data provides an unprecedented ability to move outcrop examples from analogues towards homologues. The ability to compare outcrop data, where much larger extents of geological systems can be viewed, with subsurface data where little primary data such as cores are available and geophysical data which may have unsatisfactory resolution, has revitalized outcrop geology in the last decade. Therefore, presently, and in the foreseeable future, outcrops will increase in their importance, both in terms of their independent value as the primary data source and training ground for geologists, but also for invaluable comparisons with subsurface data.
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Outcrops are fundamental to everything we hope to achieve in geological understanding. They are gateways to geological processes, earth history and they help ground-truth remote sensing applications. With increasing resolution of subsurface tools and techniques, one could be forgiven in believing that outcrops have had their day and their utility is less than in the past great eras of field mapping and the development of facies models. This premise is far from the truth and this new SEPM volume illustrates how new analytical techniques are revitalizing outcrops and in the process creating a wealth of new data and fresh geological understandings. In this book you will find a compilation of the growing arsenal of outcrop tools and techniques and a consideration of future developments. This collection of papers, delivered at a SEPM Research Conference on the West coast of Ireland in the summer of 2008, is a smorgasbord of case studies, workflows, modeling, and applications which spans clastic and carbonate settings. Whatever your interest in outcrop geology and its application there is something in this volume for you. If you are seeking guidance for using new outcrop tools, looking for efficiencies in data collection or desiring new insights for old and favorite outcrops, this volume is a must have. This volume also makes an excellent reference or textbook for any group of professionals or students working or studying the new technologies that have allowed new insights from outcrops. We also consider this a superbly timed publication because many new outcrop tools are now becoming mainstream via reduced purchase and operating costs. Once you read this volume, and there are reduced prices for SEPM members and students, please share your new experiences with the authors and editors and help continue the revitalization of our shared and continually surprising outcrop library of the earth.