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Delimiting the Transcontinental Arch of the Rocky Mountain Region Using GIS-based Contour Mapping

Authors: Jennifer Murdock*, University of Denver
Topics: Physical Geography
Keywords: Geographic Information Science, Transcontinental Arch, Paleozoic
Session Type: Poster
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


My research utilizes GIS tools to advance geological knowledge of Paleozoic mountain building in modern day Colorado and resolve what Colorado looked like 500 million years ago. At this time, ancient beaches are thought to have lapped up against an enigmatic, poorly defined mountain range known as the Transcontinental Arch. Current research, though, is not in agreement as to whether a mountain range existed prior to the Pre-ancestral Rockies during the Paleozoic era. Previous work suggests the thickness and distribution of strata of the Sawatch Quartzite, originally laid down as sediments around this hypothesized arch, define the nature of this topographic high. Yet some stratigraphic data suggests that the Transcontinental Arch may not have existed at all. Using current technology, it is possible to search digitally for exposed sections of Sawatch Quartzite as well as measure the thickness of those sections, and to do so at a scale not previously possible. Access to oil well logs across Colorado in which the Sawatch Quartzite formation exist provide complementary subsurface data that can help constrain the distribution of the Sawatch Quartzite in greater detail than previously possible. I intend to create isopach maps and basin models for the Sawatch Quartzite, in tandem with relevant overlying strata in order to delimit the spatial boundaries and topographic relief of the Transcontinental Arch in the Rocky Mountain region using GIS-based structural contour mapping. This work will help us to understand the Great Unconformity and potentially create a base-line model for future geologic applications of GIS.

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