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Creating interactive 3-D block diagrams from geologic maps and cross-sections

By
Paul Karabinos
Paul Karabinos
Department of Geosciences, Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts 01267, USA
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Published:
October 01, 2012

Geologic maps and cross-sections effectively summarize the structural geology of a region, but they can be difficult for non-geologists to interpret. Textbooks and interpretive guides commonly integrate maps and cross-sections into static perspective block diagrams to help novices visualize basic concepts in geology. The inherent power of block diagrams, however, is dramatically increased by software such as Google SketchUp, a free downloadable program, which can create interactive 3-D models of a region. The stand-alone models can be Rotated, Panned, and Zoomed by the user and exported for animations. An efficient way to create block diagrams is to combine the individual strengths of dedicated GIS software with SketchUp, and merge the results into a single 3-D model.

Effective 3-D block diagrams drape a geologic map on a digital elevation model and show how the map and cross-sections connect at the topographic surface. Creating block diagrams in such a way that portions of the map between cross-section planes are independent segments gives the user flexibility to make portions of the map invisible. By “turning off” parts of the surface, it is possible to sequentially reveal multiple cross-sections. 3-D block diagrams help students and non-specialists visualize geologic structures. Once created, the 3-D block diagrams can be quickly edited by substituting alternate images of geologic maps and cross-sections. Thus they provide an elegant approach for comparing different interpretations of a region. Combined with tools available in SketchUp, they also provide geologists with a valuable resource for assessing the geometric plausibility of geologic cross-sections.

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GSA Special Papers

Google Earth and Virtual Visualizations in Geoscience Education and Research

Steven J. Whitmeyer
Steven J. Whitmeyer
Department of Geology & Environmental Science, James Madison University, Memorial Hall, MSC 6903, Harrisonburg, Virginia 22807, USA
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John E. Bailey
John E. Bailey
Scenarios Network for Alaska & Arctic Planning, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, Alaska 99709, USA
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Declan G. De Paor
Declan G. De Paor
Department of Physics, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia 23529, USA
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Tina Ornduff
Tina Ornduff
Google Inc., 1600 Amphitheatre Pkwy, Mountain View, California 94043, USA
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Geological Society of America
Volume
492
ISBN print:
9780813724928
Publication date:
October 01, 2012

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