SF part II: Revolution in the air

A structural framework isn’t an easy concept. If you don’t agree, you may have forgotten to read part I of this post. Or you are just extremely smart.

Last week we stopped after showing that a structural framework is a well-defined concept, being used primarily to add structural understanding to a geological model. You can find them anywhere from scales of smaller, dedicated or applied models, to larger ones such as those involving nappe tectonics.

Nice enough, but GeoConnect³d does not want to leave it there. It proposes to use the structural framework as the dominant, the superseding model, in which geological maps and models would become the details. It even declares that this is the necessary way forward towards pan-European integration and harmonisation of geological information.

The structural framework is an essential part of GeoConnect³d. But how will we build one?

And the crowd reacts with shouts like ‘Fantasy!’… ‘Lies!’… ‘Blasphemy!’ and starts erecting the gallows. Yes, there are some risks involved with out-of-the-box thinking. Some people say they stand on the shoulders of giants; in geology we often feel more like standing on a pile of martyrs.

But enough on self-preservation, the more important question is: how to build a structural framework that is independent of a geological model, or better, is a model in its own right? That may be less straightforward than it seems. As we discussed last week, the traditional structural frameworks are based on the relations between the structures, which in geology are mostly derived from background knowledge about the targeted area.

That poses two problems. First, it means that these models only make sense in a clearly defined geological context. If that context is not apparent, then the faults are just faults, and without the relations between them, the framework will not be meaningful. In GeoConnect³d that situation may become rule rather than exception because the structural framework is proposed as a generic common methodology, explicitly intended to be used across different areas with a different geological history – check for yourself how varied the geology is between our areas of interest Roer-to-Rhine, Pannonian Basin, Bavaria and Ireland.

The second problem is as least as big. GeoConnect³d is a project about communicating geological knowledge. For the non-geologists among you, know that structural geology is often regarded as the ‘maths’ among the geosciences: no one likes it, everyone thinks it’s too difficult. The few exceptions seem to be people with possibly dysfunctional brains that call themselves structural geologists (one of the authors included!). But for most of us, structural models, much like complex mathematical models, are not intuitive at all. That is why showing a structural framework and hoping that the viewer will piece the elements together is not a safe assumption.

One post further, but not a step closer to a solution. Geology is a slow science, and we like to respect that.

Kris Piessens and Renata Barros
Geological Survey of Belgium

Click here to read the third part of the series.

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