In their landmark paper in 2005, Joe Cartwright and Mads Huuse referred to three-dimensional (3D) seismic reflection data as the “Geological Hubble”. By this they meant that these data, which were only then becoming available to the academic community, had the power to allow detailed investigations of the structure, stratigraphy and evolution of large sedimentary basins; in short, the field of Geosciences could benefit from these data in the same way Astrophysics had from Hubble. They showcased how 3D seismic data could be used across a range of disciplines, including seismic stratigraphy/geomorphology, structural analysis, fluid-rock interactions (see below), and igneous geology.
Although filled with stunning images, for me the most startling image from Cartwright and Huuse (2005) is their Fig. 1, which is shown below; this image beautifully illustrates the issue of ‘spatial aliasing’ (i.e. insufficient sampling of the data along the space axis), showing the enhanced geological ‘richness’ 3D seismic data gives to an interpreter. See also Fig. 4 in the same paper; honestly, it’s one of my favourite pictures of all time.
Having undertaken a largely field-based PhD, I have always been intrigued and slightly obsessed by the general applications of seismic reflection data (2D or 3D) to all areas of Earth Sciences. More specifically, I am struck how even modest-quality data can allow you to extend your geological interpretation into the third dimension; in essence, these data allow you to get ‘behind the outcrop’, sometimes over areas covering several hundreds to thousands of km2.
Therefore, in homage to Cartwright and Huuse (2005), and to reflect my passion for the use of seismic reflection data in the Earth Sciences, one of my GSA talks is entitled: 3D Seismic Reflection Data: Has the Geological Hubble Retained Its Focus? In this talk, ca. 12 years on from Cartwright and Huuse (2005), I will present just a few of what I view as the key recent advances in our understanding of basin structure, stratigraphy and evolution. At the time of writing this blog, the final content of the talk is not yet finalised. However, to reflect my past, present and potentially future research interests, which, I must admit, are a little ‘broad’ (i.e. unfocused), I’m likely to talk about some of the advances made in salt tectonics, igneous geology, geodynamic analysis and normal fault growth (excuse the self-cites; #sorrynotsorry). I may also discuss how interpretations arising from even very high-quality 3D seismic data can lead to unbelievably different geological interpretations…What I most certainly will do is stress that future advances at least partly relies on hydrocarbon exploration companies and government agencies continuing to make their data freely available via easy-to-access data portals. I will try and convince people in the audience, be they ‘geodynamicists’, sedimentologists, structural geologists or geomorphologists, can benefit from utilising what I believe are currently an underused data type. It’ll be exciting. I promise.