Geologic mapping is swiftly moving into 3D presentation as the applications of geologic mapping extends beyond mining and energy to water supply, engineering, hazards, environment and climate change. These 3D mapping efforts extend insight to new audiences where greater knowledge of underground assets and features are necessary for better land use planning and fewer environmental impacts. A 3D subsurface view contains less inference of surroundings than 3D, and adds to the intelligence by showing thickness and properties of stacked underground layers. The 3D map supports policy decisions more directly than the 2D geological map, and communicates details more clearly to constituents.
The fact that geological surveys have embraced more of an environmental agenda reinforces the need for 3D mapping. Subsurface properties of strata are needed in such context as groundwater modeling, carbon storage capacity, traditional energy (oil,gas,coal), and geothermal energy. These uses and additional interests in geological data is spurring innovations in software and systems to both create and display 3D geological details.
The transition to 3-D mapping has been made possible by technological advances in digital cartography, GIS, data storage, analysis, and visualization. Beyond the traditional 2D map, the 3D map also has been created in the era of GIS, where details stored in a geospatial database can be queried both horizontally and vertically, and also across geological time. The evolution of geological mapping toward 3D, and with details cataloged in a database, provides a platform for greater geological understanding, and a greater role for the geological profession.