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Andrew Alden

Map Colors: A Peculiar Question

By February 21, 2014

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map colorsFor many years, there has been an intercontinental difference in the set of colors used on geologic maps—since 1881, in fact. In this image, the American standard is on the left and the International (European) standard is on the right. In some respects you could say that the difference is just an accident of history. But I wonder to what extent the colors represent real differences in geology. Even crazier, I wonder how much the differences represent differences in geologists. I have a notion, which I lay out in this new article, "Color in Geologic Maps: A Peculiar History." But I'm an American, raised on the American standard and little exposed to the other standard. I'd love to hear from geologists who have worked in both traditions. Was it a shock to encounter the other side? Were your synesthetic responses different? What color is the Triassic in your dreams?


March 13, 2014 at 1:54 pm
(1) Michael says:

Here in Israel we use the one with the violet Triassic. Basically the one from http://www.stratigraphy.org. Until reading this post I didn’t even know there is a different colour scheme.
Israel, being such a Cretaceous country, always looks green on a map:
http://www.gsi.gov.il/_uploads/extraimg/geo_200web2.jpg with some Miocene and Eocene yellows and oranges scattered around.
See the light blue patch in the south? That’s Makhtesh Ramon – mostly Jurassic rocks. Google it – very beautiful. The Triassic rocks are also somewhere in there, but don’t cover enough area to be properly seen in this resolution.

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