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This paper focuses on the potential for developing geologic maps using high-resolution aerial imagery and digital elevation data. A key component of geologic mapping discussed herein addresses the determination of geologic layer orientation using a planar approximation (also known as the three-point method). An analytical solution is presented which can be readily implemented in a spreadsheet. The path from initial data collection in a GIS to spreadsheet computation and back to GIS is outlined. The Mecca Hills in southern California serve as a test case, as there is good coverage with high-resolution aerial imagery, a variety of elevation data including airborne LiDAR, and a published geologic map for the area. The comparison between vector-derived strike and dip and traditional field measured strike and dip suggests that remote mapping can successfully capture the regional aspects of the geology in an area. Estimates of rock orientation can be made if the elevation data is accurate and sufficient visual contrast exists in aerial imagery to define mappable features. A comparison shows that United States Geological Survey's National Elevation Data sets and airborne LiDAR can identify regional geologic structures, while Shuttle Radar Topography Mission and ASTER GDEM data yield results that diverge substantially from higher resolution elevation data. Remote mapping using the vector form of the three-point method offers a promising tool for geologic exploration as data sets continue to improve in quality and resolution.

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