Geologic Illustrations

A map shows a bird's eye view looking down at the earth's surface. A GEOLOGIC MAP shows the rocks at the earth's surface and provides information about what those rocks are doing underground. Often a geologic map will indicate both the type of rock and the age of the rock.

A cross section shows the surface of the earth (with or without topography or elevation) and a vertical slice of the earth. A GEOLOGIC CROSS SECTION shows the surface and the rocks beneath that surface. A geologic cross section can be considered similar to looking at the side of a layer cake. The rocks are like the layers in the slice of cake. The top of the icing is the surface of the earth and the layers of cake and icing are like the different rock layers within the earth.

Since a geologic map shows ONLY the surface of the earth, symbols must be used to show what the rocks are doing beneath the surface.

geology symbols

Another illustration is a BLOCK DIAGRAM. A block diagram shows the surface of the earth and also at least one cross section. It is like a block or chunk cut out of the earth. Again, think of it like a whole slice of cake. You can move around and look at it from different angles and see the top and the layers of cake and icing beneath it all at the same time. If you turn it, sometimes you can see the top and two sides all at the same time. So, block diagrams show the surface, and at least one side, and maybe two or more other sides, depending on how the position of the viewer.

Example of a Geologic Map

geologic map
This map shows two different rocks at the earth's surface. What rock is at the left and what rock is on the right? This demonstrates how the rock symbols are used. The shale on the left has been faulted up to the sandstone on the right. This is indicated by the letters U for up and D for down. The black line between the two patterns is the fault. Another geologic symbol is shown on this map. That is the symbol to show that these sedimentary layers are horizontal beds. These beds have not been folded, only broken by the fault.

Example of a Geologic Cross Section

cross section

On this geologic cross section, the top line is the surface of the earth. The rocks beneath the surface are also shown. The rocks layers are horizontal, but they are broken by a FAULT. A fault is a break in the rock layers along which movement has occurred. A JOINT is a break in the rocks along which NO movement has taken place. A half arrow could be placed on this illustration on each side of the fault to show the direction of movement that has taken place. Often, this is evident from examination of the layers of rock on each side. How many rocks are found at the surface in this area? What are the rock types? On the left is shale and on the right is sandstone.

Using the Law of Superposition, we can also determine what is the oldest rock shown in the diagram. It is shale, the shale found at the bottom of the cross section.

Example of a Block Diagram

block diagram

In this block diagram, the orientation allows us to see the surface of the earth, or the map view, and two sides or cross sections. Examine the relationship between the part of the diagram that represents what would be the map, and the two different cross sectional views. A block diagram gives a better view of the rock layers of the area than either a map or one cross section alone; however, a geologic map can provide sufficient information for construction of block diagrams through the symbols that are provided on it. It is very important to keep in mind which you are looking at, a map, a cross section, or a block diagram. The block diagram is fairly obvious, but you must remain cognizant of what represents the SURFACE of the earth in each illustration and how this type of illustration communicates the data about the rock structures.

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