Extending Digital Outcrop Geology into the Subsurface
Richard R. Jones, Jamie K. Pringle, Kenneth J.W. McCaffrey, Jonathan Imber, Ruth H. Wightman, Jiulin Guo, Jonathan J. Long, 2011. "Extending Digital Outcrop Geology into the Subsurface", Outcrops Revitalized: Tools, Techniques and Applications, Ole J. Martinsen, Andrew J. Pulham, Peter D.W. Haughton, Morgan D. Sullivan
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Digital survey methods, including terrestrial laser scanning (LIDAR) and differential GPS, allow geological and topographic data from outcrops to be recorded very rapidly, in 3D, at detailed resolutions and with high spatial precision. Geological interpretations of outcrop datasets (e.g., fault or bedding traces) can be extended into the subsurface using geometric, probabilistic, or deterministic methods. Geometric methods based on interpolation and extrapolation of observed surfaces and surface traces are generally associated with high uncertainty. This can be reduced in areas of highly irregular topography. Another approach is to use geological heuristics to constrain the subsurface interpretation. This approach can help to limit the number of possible interpretations when creating multiple realizations. Deterministic methods encompass both invasive and non-invasive approaches. Invasive methods include mining and quarrying, as well as small-scale excavation of unconsolidated sediments. Behind-the-outcrop boreholes are only slightly invasive, and can provide very useful constraint of the subsurface. In contrast, geophysical methods such as near-surface seismics and ground penetrating radar (GPR) allow indirect imaging of the subsurface and are non-invasive.
Excellent coastal exposures of Namurian turbidites near the Bridge of Ross in County Clare, western Ireland, provide a case study in which several different types of digital outcrop data are combined and co-visualized in a 3D model. In vertical sections on opposite sides of the outcrop a small-scale turbidite channel is marked by an erosional base and inclined interbedded sandstones and mud-clast conglomerates. The observed channel margins can be traced through the subsurface using 3D GPR.
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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.