Dynamic topography is a well-established consequence of global geodynamic models of mantle convection with horizontal dimensions of >1000 km and amplitudes up to 2 km. Such physical models guide the interpretation of geological records on equal dimensions. Continent-scale geological maps therefore serve as reference frames of choice to visualize erosion/non-deposition as a proxy for long-wavelength, low-amplitude vertical surface motion. At a resolution of systems or series, such maps display conformable and unconformable time boundaries traceable over hundreds to thousands of kilometres. Unconformable contact surfaces define the shape and size of time gap (hiatus) in millions of years based on the duration of time represented by the missing systems or series. Hiatus for a single system or series base datum diminishes laterally to locations (anchor points) where it is conformable at the mapped resolution; it is highly dependent upon scale. A comparison of hiatus area between two successive system or series boundaries yields changes in location, shape, size and duration, indicative of the transient nature of vertical surface motion. As a single-step technique, it serves as a quantitative proxy for palaeotopography that can be calibrated using other geological data. The tool magnifies the need for geological mapping at the temporal resolution of stages, matching process rates. The method has no resolving power within conformable regions (basins) but connects around them. When applied to marine seismic sections that relate to rock record, not to time, biostratigraphic and radiometric data from deep wells are needed before hiatus areas – that relate to time – can be mapped.