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Terrain modification in Google Earth using SketchUp: An example from the Western Blue Ridge of Tennessee

By
Jesse S. Hill
Jesse S. Hill
Department of Earth Sciences, Tennessee Tech University, Cookeville, Tennessee 38506, USA
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Michael J. Harrison
Michael J. Harrison
Department of Earth Sciences, Tennessee Tech University, Cookeville, Tennessee 38506, USA
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Published:
October 01, 2012

The creation of new outcrops through construction is an important source of field data for geologists, especially in parts of the Appalachians with limited rock exposure. Users of Google Earth for field research often encounter disparities between the digital topography and the current-day Earth's surface, as newly formed outcrops may not be represented in the topography. Such is the case along sections of the I-26 corridor in Unicoi County, northeastern Tennessee. Twenty-four kilometers of U.S. 23 (future I-26) was widened to four lanes from Sams Gap at the North Carolina–Tennessee line to the Nolichucky River near Erwin, Tennessee, in the early 1990s. The series of outcrops created along the corridor provide an exceptional traverse through Grenvillian-age basement and cover strata which contain numerous stacked Alleghanian thrust sheets and shear zones. Near mile marker 44 along I-26, an ~250 m-long and 65 m-high outcrop was formed as part of the early 1990s construction. Google Earth satellite and Street View images show the outcrop, but the digital terrain in Google Earth does not reflect the approximate 150,000 m3 of rock removed to form this roadcut. To correct for this, terrain modifications were made with Sketch-Up by copying and virtually excavating the landscape. The SketchUp model was then imported into Google Earth to show the outcrop and interstate as it looks today, with the interstate passing uninterrupted through a ridge rather than draping over hilly topography. This technique can be applied to any area in Google Earth where a mismatch exists between real and virtual topography.

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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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