Geologic map

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Mapped global geologic provinces World geologic provinces.jpg
Mapped global geologic provinces

A geologic map is a special-purpose map made to show various geological features. Rock units or geologic strata are shown by color or symbols. Bedding planes and structural features such as faults, folds, are shown with strike and dip or trend and plunge symbols which give three-dimensional orientations features.


Stratigraphic contour lines may be used to illustrate the surface of a selected stratum illustrating the subsurface topographic trends of the strata. Isopach maps detail the variations in thickness of stratigraphic units. It is not always possible to properly show this when the strata are extremely fractured, mixed, in some discontinuities, or where they are otherwise disturbed.

William Smith's geologic map Geological map Britain William Smith 1815.jpg
William Smith's geologic map



Rock units are typically represented by colors. Instead of (or in addition to) colors, certain symbols can be used. Different geologic mapping agencies and authorities have different standards for the colors and symbols to be used for rocks of differing types and ages.


A standard Brunton Geological compass, used commonly by geologists Brunton.JPG
A standard Brunton Geological compass, used commonly by geologists

Geologists take two major types of orientation measurements (using a hand compass like a Brunton compass): orientations of planes and orientations of lines. Orientations of planes are measured as a "strike" and "dip", while orientations of lines are measured as a "trend" and "plunge".

Strike and dip symbols consist of a long "strike" line, which is perpendicular to the direction of greatest slope along the surface of the bed, and a shorter "dip" line on side of the strike line where the bed is going downwards. The angle that the bed makes with the horizontal, along the dip direction, is written next to the dip line. In the azimuthal system, strike and dip are often given as "strike/dip" (for example: 270/15, for a strike of west and a dip of 15 degrees below the horizontal).

Trend and plunge are used for linear features, and their symbol is a single arrow on the map. The arrow is oriented in the downgoing direction of the linear feature (the "trend") and at the end of the arrow, the number of degrees that the feature lies below the horizontal (the "plunge") is noted. Trend and plunge are often notated as PLUNGE → TREND (for example: 34 → 86 indicates a feature that is angled at 34 degrees below the horizontal at an angle that is just east of true south).


The oldest preserved geologic map is the Turin papyrus (1150 BCE), which shows the location of building stone and gold deposits in Egypt. [1] [2]

The earliest geologic map of the modern era is the 1771 "Map of Part of Auvergne, or figures of, The Current of Lava in which Prisms, Balls, Etc. are Made from Basalt. To be used with Mr. Demarest's theories of this hard basalt. Engraved by Messr. Pasumot and Daily, Geological Engineers of the King." This map is based on Nicolas Desmarest's 1768 detailed study of the geology and eruptive history of the Auvergne volcanoes and a comparison with the columns of the Giant's Causeway of Ireland. He identified both landmarks as features of extinct volcanoes. The 1768 report was incorporated in the 1771 (French) Royal Academy of Science compendium.

The first geological map of the U.S. was produced in 1809 by William Maclure. [3] In 1807, Maclure undertook the self-imposed task of making a geological survey of the United States. He traversed and mapped nearly every state in the Union. During the rigorous two-year period of his survey, he crossed and recrossed the Allegheny Mountains some 50 times. [4] [5] Maclure's map shows the distribution of five classes of rock in what are now only the eastern states of the present-day US.

The first geologic map of Great Britain was created by William Smith in 1815 using principles (Smith's laws) first formulated by Smith. [6]

Maps and mapping around the globe

Geologic map of North America superimposed on a shaded relief map North america terrain 2003 map.jpg
Geologic map of North America superimposed on a shaded relief map

United States

Geological Map of Ohio from "Geography of Ohio," 1923 Geography of Ohio - DPLA - aaba7b3295ff6973b6fd1e23e33cde14 (page 77) (cropped).jpg
Geological Map of Ohio from "Geography of Ohio," 1923

In the United States, geologic maps are usually superimposed over a topographic map (and at times over other base maps) with the addition of a color mask with letter symbols to represent the kind of geologic unit. The color mask denotes the exposure of the immediate bedrock, even if obscured by soil or other cover. Each area of color denotes a geologic unit or particular rock formation (as more information is gathered new geologic units may be defined). However, in areas where the bedrock is overlain by a significantly thick unconsolidated burden of till, terrace sediments, loess deposits, or other important feature, these are shown instead. Stratigraphic contour lines, fault lines, strike and dip symbols, are represented with various symbols as indicated by the map key. Whereas topographic maps are produced by the United States Geological Survey in conjunction with the states, geologic maps are usually produced by the individual states. There are almost no geologic map resources for some states, while a few states, such as Kentucky and Georgia, are extensively mapped geologically.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom the term geological map is used. The UK and Isle of Man have been extensively mapped by the British Geological Survey (BGS) since 1835; a separate Geological Survey of Northern Ireland (drawing on BGS staff) has operated since 1947.

Two 1:625,000 scale maps cover the basic geology for the UK. More detailed sheets are available at scales of 1:250,000, 1:50,000 and 1:10,000. The 1:625,000 and 1:250,000 scales show both onshore and offshore geology (the 1:250,000 series covers the entire UK continental shelf), whilst other scales generally cover exposures on land only.

Sheets of all scales (though not for all areas) fall into two categories:

  1. Superficial deposit maps (previously known as solid and drift maps) show both bedrock and the deposits on top of it.
  2. Bedrock maps (previously known as solid maps) show the underlying rock, without superficial deposits.

The maps are superimposed over a topographic map base produced by Ordnance Survey (OS), and use symbols to represent fault lines, strike and dip or geological units, boreholes etc. Colors are used to represent different geological units. Explanatory booklets (memoirs) are produced for many sheets at the 1:50,000 scale.

Small scale thematic maps (1:1,000,000 to 1:100,000) are also produced covering geochemistry, gravity anomaly, magnetic anomaly, groundwater, etc.

Although BGS maps show the British national grid reference system and employ an OS base map, sheet boundaries are not based on the grid. The 1:50,000 sheets originate from earlier 'one inch to the mile' (1:63,360) coverage utilising the pre-grid Ordnance Survey One Inch Third Edition as the base map. Current sheets are a mixture of modern field mapping at 1:10,000 redrawn at the 1:50,000 scale and older 1:63,360 maps reproduced on a modern base map at 1:50,000. In both cases the original OS Third Edition sheet margins and numbers are retained. The 1:250,000 sheets are defined using lines of latitude and longitude, each extending 1° north-south and 2° east-west.


The first geological map of Singapore was produced in 1974, produced by the then Public Work Department. The publication includes a locality map, 8 map sheets detailing the topography and geological units, and a sheet containing cross sections of the island.

Since 1974, for 30 years, there were many findings reported in various technical conferences on new found geology islandwide, but no new publication was produced. In 2006, Defence Science & Technology Agency, with their developments in underground space promptly started a re-publication of the Geology of Singapore, second edition. The new edition that was published in 2009, contains a 1:75,000 geology map of the island, 6 maps (1:25,000) containing topography, street directory and geology, a sheet of cross section and a locality map.

The difference found between the 1976 Geology of Singapore report include numerous formations found in literature between 1976 and 2009. These include the Fort Canning Boulder Beds and stretches of limestone.

See also

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Topographic map Medium to large scale map that shows a precise map of the terrain

Topography concerns the shape and character of the Earth's surface, and maps were among the first artifacts to record these observations. In modern mapping, a topographic map or topographic sheet is a type of map characterized by large-scale detail and quantitative representation of relief, usually using contour lines, but historically using a variety of methods. Traditional definitions require a topographic map to show both natural and artificial features. A topographic survey is typically based upon systematic observation and published as a map series, made up of two or more map sheets that combine to form the whole map. A topographic map series uses a common specification that includes the range of cartographic symbols employed, as well as a standard geodetic framework that defines the map projection, coordinate system, ellipsoid and geodetic datum. Official topographic maps also adopt a national grid referencing system.

Topography Study of the forms of land surfaces

Topography is the study of the forms and features of land surfaces. The topography of an area could refer to the surface forms and features themselves, or a description.


An outcrop or rocky outcrop is a visible exposure of bedrock or ancient superficial deposits on the surface of the Earth.

Strike and dip Orientation or attitude of a geologic feature

Strike and dip refer to the orientation or attitude of a geologic feature. The strike line of a bed, fault, or other planar feature, is a line representing the intersection of that feature with a horizontal plane. On a geologic map, this is represented with a short straight line segment oriented parallel to the strike line. Strike can be given as either a quadrant compass bearing of the strike line or in terms of east or west of true north or south, a single three digit number representing the azimuth, where the lower number is usually given, or the azimuth number followed by the degree sign.

Orienteering map

An orienteering map is a map specially prepared for use in orienteering competitions. It is a topographic map with extra details to help the competitor navigate through the competition area.

United States Geological Survey Scientific agency of the United States government

The United States Geological Survey is a scientific agency of the United States government. The scientists of the USGS study the landscape of the United States, its natural resources, and the natural hazards that threaten it. The organization's work spans the disciplines of biology, geography, geology, and hydrology. The USGS is a fact-finding research organization with no regulatory responsibility.

In structural geology, rake is formally defined as "the angle between a line [or a feature] and the strike line of the plane in which it is found", measured on the plane. The three-dimensional orientation of a line can be described with just a plunge and trend. The rake is a useful description of a line because often features (lines) follow along a planar surface. In these cases the rake can be used to describe the line's orientation in three dimensions relative to that planar surface. One might also expect to see this used when the particular line is hard to measure directly. The rake always sweeps down from the horizontal plane.

The Bronnant Fault is a geological fault affecting the lower Palaeozoic rocks of the counties of Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire in West Wales. The feature is mapped over part of its length as the Bronnant Fault Zone and is closely associated with the Glandyfi Lineament, a similarly aligned zone of faulting and folding. The rocks of the Aberystwyth Grits Group dating from the Llandovery epoch of the Silurian period thicken markedly to the west of the fault suggesting it was active at the time of their deposition. North of Lledrod its alignment is affected by cross-cutting east–west faults, including the Ystwyth Fault Zone. Its alignment is sub-parallel to the coast of Cardigan Bay thus curving from a north–south alignment in the north through a northeast–southwest alignment until it merges with broadly east–west aligned faults in northeast Pembrokeshire.

Sherwood Sandstone Group

The Sherwood Sandstone Group is a Triassic lithostratigraphic group which is widespread in Britain, especially in the English Midlands. The name is derived from Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire which is underlain by rocks of this age. It has economic importance as the reservoir of the Morecambe Bay gas field, the second largest gas field in the UK.

Exeter Group

The Exeter Group is a Permian lithostratigraphic group which occurs through East Devon in southwest England. The name is derived from the city of Exeter in Devon which is partly underlain by rocks of this age.

Geological compass Type of compass

There are a number of different (specialised) magnetic compasses used by geologists to measure orientation of geological structures, as they map in the field, to analyse the geometry of bedding planes, joints, and/or metamorphic foliations and lineations. In this aspect the most common device used to date is the analogue compass.

The geology of Rutland in eastern England largely consists of sedimentary rocks of Jurassic age which dip gently eastwards.

The geology of West Sussex in southeast England comprises a succession of sedimentary rocks of Cretaceous age overlain in the south by sediments of Palaeogene age. The sequence of strata from both periods consists of a variety of sandstones, mudstones, siltstones and limestones. These sediments were deposited within the Hampshire and Weald basins. Erosion subsequent to large scale but gentle folding associated with the Alpine Orogeny has resulted in the present outcrop pattern across the county, dominated by the north facing chalk scarp of the South Downs. The bedrock is overlain by a suite of Quaternary deposits of varied origin. Parts of both the bedrock and these superficial deposits have been worked for a variety of minerals for use in construction, industry and agriculture.

The geology of Northumberland in northeast England includes a mix of sedimentary, intrusive and extrusive igneous rocks from the Palaeozoic and Cenozoic eras. Devonian age volcanic rocks and a granite pluton form the Cheviot massif. The geology of the rest of the county is characterised largely by a thick sequence of sedimentary rocks of Carboniferous age. These are intruded by both Permian and Palaeogene dykes and sills and the whole is overlain by unconsolidated sediments from the last ice age and the post-glacial period. The Whin Sill makes a significant impact on Northumberland's character and the former working of the Northumberland Coalfield significantly influenced the development of the county's economy. The county's geology contributes to a series of significant landscape features around which the Northumberland National Park was designated.

The geology of Exmoor National Park in south-west England contributes significantly to the character of a landscape which was designated as a national park in 1954. The bedrock of the area consists almost wholly of a suite of sedimentary rocks deposited during the Devonian, a period named for the English county of Devon in which the western half of the park sits. The eastern part lies within Somerset and it is within this part of the park that limited outcrops of Triassic and Jurassic age rocks are to be found.

2020 Central Idaho earthquake

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  2. Klemm, Rosemarie; Klemm, Dietrich (2013). Gold and Gold Mining in Ancient Egypt and Nubia. Heidelberg: Springer. pp. 132–136. ISBN   9783642225079.
  3. "Maclure's geological map of the United States". US Library of Congress' Map Collection. Library of Congress. Retrieved 30 October 2015.
  4. Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Maclure, William"  . Encyclopædia Britannica . 17 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 263.
  5. Greene, J.C.; Burke, J.G. (1978). "The Science of Minerals in the Age of Jefferson". Transactions of the American Philosophical Society. New. 68 (4): 39. doi:10.2307/1006294. JSTOR   1006294. (article pages: 1–113)
  6. Simon Winchester, 2002, The Map that Changed the World , Harper-Collins ISBN   0-06-093180-9