SF part III: Light at the end of the tunnel

In the previous part of the series, we drifted further away from finding a solution to build a structural framework. But we also learned a few things, such as that structural geology should not be the only component of the framework. It would not work, and even if it would, no one would be interested for finding it too hard to understand. That is a bit of a challenge, because the ‘structural’ in structural framework arguably comes from the ‘structural’ in structural geology. And if a structural framework should not only be made of structures, what else is supposed to be in it?

Looks like we have hit a dead end. We are still nowhere near to finding a way to present accurate geological information in an understandable way to the public. But when you are stuck, a good way forward is to ask someone else’s opinion. So, let’s go interactive by us asking you: which of the three geological representations of Europe, shown below, makes the most sense to you at a first glance?

Maps from Jähne (2014). Just as a small tip, if you are looking for a proper introduction to the geology of Europe, maybe to give to students that have a very short memory, or have studied outside of Europe, this publication is a great starting point. Click here to enlarge the figure.

Assuming mind reading works, you will think that map a) is a very colourful Europe, but without an obvious meaning if you do not go through the legend in detail. In other words, you do not like traditional geological maps. Turn to map b) in the middle: some faults represented by lines with different symbols and grouped by colour. If this still does not tell you much, then you are probably not a fan of fault maps either. Now turn to map c) and tell us what it shows. If you can immediately spot that Scandinavia looks very different from the rest of Europe, and that Iceland seems to be split in half, then you are making sense, at least geologically. We seem to have a winner.

The map on the left is a pretty good simplified (yes, simplified!) geological map of Europe. A public secret is that geological maps are quite hard to read. Even a trained geologist will need some time with a new map from an unknown area. This is partly because such maps are crowded with information, and because the geological history needs to be derived from the 2D presentation of the distribution of rocks of different ages. Specially for a non-geologist, maps with a lot of information and little explanation are nothing more than colourful.

In the middle, a distillation is made of major fault structures in Europe, coloured according to the time they were most active. Such a map may come close to the first thing that you imagine after hearing about structural frameworks. They are great tools, especially as overlays on other maps, but do not explain a lot by themselves. That is, they do not show the geology of Europe, of which you already need to know the basics to understand which faults are singled out, and why.

And then there is the map on the right. Basically, it shows the big geological units of Europe. Due to the complexity of the geological history of this continent, some of these units overlap, but all in all this representation is the more digestible of the three. It doesn’t look like a structural framework, but it comes closer than you may suspect.

These maps were and are still being used to structure our discussions, to exchange views on what we like, and where we want to go with GeoConnect³d. They were made by Fabian Jähne-Klingberg (BGR), in the frame of GEMAS, a European project on soil chemistry. And we are fortunate to have him involved in GeoConnect³d.

So where are we now? We have discovered that it is possible to represent complex geological information in way that is easy to grasp, at least on a map. That is a light at the end of the tunnel. But can we apply a similar approach to the GeoConnect³d structural framework?

Kris Piessens and Renata Barros
Geological Survey of Belgium

Click here to read the last part of the series.


Jähne, F. (2014): Geology of Europe. In: Reimann, C., Birke, M., Demetriades, A., Filzmoser, P. & O’Connor, P. [Eds] Chemistry of Europe’s agricultural soils – Part B: General background information and further analysis of the GEMAS data set. Geologisches Jahrbuch (Reihe B 103), Schweizerbarth, Hannover, 352 pp.

Note: This blog is optimized for viewing in Chrome or Firefox.

Leave a Reply