3D Geology

3D (three dimensional) geologic models are digital representations of geologic data in 3D space. Using these models, surficial and subsurface data may be viewed from various perspectives. This would otherwise be impossible with traditional flat maps. Events, such as landslides, water table fluctuations, or earthquakes can also be modeled with this technique.

What are 3D models

3D geologic models are a method of portraying complex data interactively. The interactivity of the models allows for a better understanding of this complex data than is possible using a 2D map.

For example, try to explain to someone what a tree looks like with only a drawing. Now explain the tree again using a picture. Finally, go outside and show that person a tree. In this scenario, you likely found that showing someone a tree was the best way of communicating what a tree looks like. Similarly, 3D models are the most descriptive method of showing the geology (“tree”) without actually requiring a visit to the location.

Why 3D models are important

Creating a geologic model begins with data collection. Geologists collect data in the field and interpret it using their training and skills.

Additionally, as much of the geologic data we collect lies below the earth’s surface, 3D models are a great way to see geologic conditions at depth. Using models, scientists can dynamically view surficial and subsurface data from various perspectives to better understand how the surface and subsurface are shaped by geology in a more intuitive way. 3D geologic visualization applies to geologic issues such as hazards, geotechnical engineering, hydrology, and resource recovery.

Get our 3D models

One way to view 3D models is with a KMZ file which can be opened in Google Earth.

Various 3D geologic models are available for you to download and explore. Click on the interactive map below to obtain Google Earth KMZ files depicting the 1:100,000-scale geology for each county in the state. There is also a depth to bedrock model for the Puget Lowland available below.

  • Google Earth geology overlays
  • Depth to bedrock model
  • Click on the map below to download 1:100,000-scale geologic map KMZ files for use in Google Earth. County names will appear when you hover your mouse over the map.

    Instructions for KMZ Files

    Download the instructions, or watch the following YouTube video:

  • Click the image below to download Models of bedrock elevation and unconsolidated sediment thickness in the Puget Lowland, Washington. This was compiled and interpreted from previous publications on the subject, well logs, geotechnical data, seismic surveys, and geologic mapping.

    Eungard, Daniel W., 2014, Models of bedrock elevation and unconsolidated sediment thickness in the Puget Lowland, Washington: Washington Division of Geology and Earth Resources Open File Report 2014-04, 20 p, 2 plates, scale 1:475,000.

    Bedrock elevation map of the Puget Lowland, showing major structural basins.