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Digital Elevation Models for Terrain Visualization, Structural Analysis, and Petroleum Exploration in the Rocky Mountain Region

Howe, James R.
Consulting Geologist, Boulder, CO

Terrain visualizations developed from digital elevation models (DEMs) greatly enhance the interpretation of geomorphology for structural geology in petroleum exploration. DEMs derived from the NASA Shuttle Radar Topography Mission in 2000 and USGS topographic maps reveal many surface lineations directly associated with fault and fracture trends in the Rocky Mountain region. Structural analysis of these lineations, in the context of regional and local stress history, improves understanding of fault and fracture history and associated fluid movements and aids in the refinement of exploration targets. The integration of DEMs into a geographic information system (GIS) facilitates their interpretation and analysis in conjunction with other exploration data sets. Integrated GIS elements for the region include DEMs, Landsat images, geologic maps, mapped surface joints, subsurface structure, well production, thermal data, and state of stress.