Cutting Edge > Structural Geology > Geologic Map Interpretation with Google Earth > Using Google Earth to teach geologic map interpretation > Visualizing Inclined Contacts

Visualizing inclined contacts using Google Earth

Barbara Tewksbury (Hamilton College)

Chahar Gas, Iran, mapping area small
Doubly plunging anticline near Chahar Gas, Iran (31 54 22.30N, 56 38 59.91E)

Although it seems silly to teach geologic map interpretation starting with the most complicated case of inclined units in areas with topographic relief, the powerful 3D viewing capability of Google Earth allows students to visualize relationships easily. For the second homework assignment of the semester, students create a geologic map and sketch a topographic profile before they have learned about units and contacts or strike and dip.


Although many areas in the world contain Google Earth imagery suitable for this kind of assignment, few in the US are as fabulous as the images from the folded terrain in the Dasht-e Lut in eastern Iran, at right, with detail for mapping below.

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The assignment

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Students fly around the area in Google Earth and create their own geologic map of a small portion of the structure (above) by

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The results

Follow-up in class

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Go to the next step:
Visualizing strike & dip



Go to Visualizing inclined contacts - Visualizing strike & dip - Visualizing vertical contacts - Visualizing horizontal contacts - Visualizing folds - Other mapping projects

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