With the advent of freely available 3D applications such as Google Earth and Virtual Earth it has become possible to place 3D objects within a very detailed geographical context. For both experts and non-experts these applications have become great tools to share information from various sources in an environmentally realistic and highly interactive context, which anybody can navigate through. A major challenge is to put geological objects in these contexts allowing us to share information of the earth beneath our feet.
For this purpose, we developed a Google Earth-based technique which is capable of presenting 3D geological data through a highly 'natural feel' in the geographical context. Key to the 'natural feel' is that the user lifts interactively 3D subsurface information upwards out of the subsurface, into view. Because of this, the user is able to enjoy a more visual and intuitive learning experience of the hidden underground.
The application has been designed for user-friendliness, flexibility and accessibility. In terms of volumetric 3D geological models the tool has been designed to accommodate volumetric geological layer-models defined through depth grids of horizons, which accounts well for sedimentary basins. It has capabilities to import these models from different cartographic projection systems and to project them into the long-lat coordinates of Google Earth, which allows to present data from all areas and countries over the world. Furthermore, it can be easily adapted to import and share differing 3D formats, such as faults, wells and mining shafts. For this reason the application can be easily adapted to accommodate for other types of datasets, including for example the datasets used in the One-Geology project.
The application will be demonstrated with geological models of the Geological Survey of the Netherlands. One of the strongest interactive features is the capability to define arbitrary locations for cross sections and to lift these from the ground. Other typical objects to lift are wells, faults, etc. The tools can be further extended to link the models to meta-data of geological information so that the user can get immediate access to detailed information about the selected geological object, consequently adding to the quality of the learning experience.
This research is part of the GeoMAX project jointly executed by TNO - Built Environment and Geosciences, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VUA), Naturalis, Dutch National Museum of Natural History and SARA, Stichting Academisch Rekencentrum Amsterdam. The main purpose of GeoMAX is to increase public awareness of subsurface Earth Science information.