OpenLandform Catalog

The OpenTopography OpenLandform Catalog serves as a resource to explore geologic landforms in high resolution digital topography for teachers, students or any interested user. This resource brings real world cutting edge digital topographic data to an accessible level that can be interrogated and explored using free tools, such as Google Earth. The catalog is intended to compliment advanced high school and introductory college level earth science courses where the study and analysis of landscapes and their characteristic landforms is essential to students understanding of fundamental earth system processes.

Below is a list of geologic landforms sourced from data hosted by OpenTopography separated into categories based on formative processes. Each category contains a growing number of landforms displayed in point cloud (top image) and hillshade (bottom image), a brief description and links to explain the landform, a link to the dataset page for the particular area and pre-generated data products. Each landform has links to four different data products: images of the hillshade/point cloud of the landform pictured on the page, Google Earth KMZs, Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) including derived products (hillshades and slope grids), and the point cloud data (LAS). Some of the landforms have pre-existing education activities and are linked. To learn more about lidar, the data products and teaching resources please visit OpenTopography's Learn page. For an introduction to lidar technology, please visit the Getting Started page.

Landforms created by...

Wind Action

Impacts and Landslides

Water

Ice

Faulting, Folding and Earthquakes

Volcanic Activity



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Wind Action

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Aeolian Sand Dunes


White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

A dune is a hill or ridge of sand deposited by wind or water. Aeolian sand dunes are deposited on land and shaped primarily by wind. White Sands National Monument is known as a dune field, containing several different types of dunes. This particular dune field contains Parabolic (pictured) and Barchan dune types which are shaped by the predominant southwestern winds as well as Parabolic Dunes, which are partially anchored by vegetation. Movement of dune crests at White Sands can be up to 38 feet per year. For more information about the geology and climate of White Sands National Monument, please read Geological Overview of White Sands National Monument by Steven G. Fryberger.

White Sands National Monument, NM: LiDAR Survey of Dune Fields

(Funder: National Science Foundation, Collector: National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping, PI: Ryan Ewing, University of Texas, Austin)





Impacts and Landslides


Landslide


Alaska Range along Denali-Totschunda Fault System, Alaska

A landslide is a downslope movement of a mass of rock and accumulated materials. Also known as a type of mass wasting, landslides can be triggered by earthquakes, heavy rains, or human activities such as construction or mining. Pictured to the right is an oblique view of a landslide adjacent to the Denali Fault. The last major rupture on this fault system was a magnitude 7.9 earthquake November 3, 2002, which could have been the cause of this landslide. In the bottom image, the lineament of a fault is visible going from higher (light blue) to lower (dark blue) elevation. The top image is a slope-shade model, which darkens steeper slopes and illuminates gentle slopes. Notice that there are dark, round spots in the landslide patch, which are likely large boulders displaced by the event.

EarthScope Alaska Denali Totschunda LiDAR Project

(Funder: National Science Foundation, Collector: National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping)

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Terrestrial Impact Crater


Barringer Meteor Crater, Winslow, Arizona

Meteor Crater is a terrestrial impact crater in the Northern Arizona Desert. It is about 1,200 meters in diameter and ~170 meters deep. The rim of the crater rises about 45m from the adjacent desert floor. The crater was created about 50,000 years ago when a meteorite about 50 meters across struck the plain. Meteor crater has been used to train astronauts, field test lunar explorers, and studied to parallels between other impacted terrains, like the Moon.

Meteor Crater, AZ



Water

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Alluvial Fan


Death Valley National Park, California

An alluvial fan is a low, fan shaped deposit of water transported sediment. They typically form at the exit of a narrow canyon where, as flowing, sediment laden water channels down, the stream gradient and area suddenly changes at the exit to a flatter, broad area. The repetition of hydraulic events migrates the deposition area along the range building up material in the fan shape. The images shown are from Death Valley National Park, an arid region where flash flooding in the mountains can pick up lots of sediment in a short time. For more information and pictures visit USGS's Death Valley National Park Alluvial Fan page.

EarthScope Southern & Eastern California LiDAR Project



Ice


Moraines


Teton Front Range, Wyoming

A moraine is a large mass of unconsolidated material that has been created by the movement of a glacier. Rocks that make up moraines can be as fine as silt to as large as a boulder, demonstrating the transport power of a glacier. There are several types of moraine, depending on where they formed in respect to the glacier. Lateral moraines (pictured) off the Teton Range formed perpendicular to the range front as the glaciers amassed at higher elevations. At the end of the two parallel lateral moraines is a terminal moraine, which is where the glacier ended. You can see that there are several terminal moraines which mark the receding glacier's toe. For more about the role of glaciers in the Teton Range, visit The Geologic Story of Grand Teton National Park from the National Parks Service.

EarthScope Intermountain Seismic Belt LiDAR Project

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Faulting, Folding and Earthquakes

Tectonic Landforms are indicative of a history of active faulting and the exploration of these surficial landforms and data that is derived from high-resolution digital topographic data help reveal the complexities of fault zones. High resolution lidar and derived products paired with a basic understanding of plate tectonics enables students to perceive the temporal and spatial extent of tectonic landforms, the earthquake cycle and become aware of seismic hazard. As faulting, folding and earthquakes create myriad of examples, exploration of high resolution topography addresses a range of topics emphasizing tectonic geomorphology, the earthquake cycle, plate tectonics/structural geology, topographic measurement, visualization, fluvial and hillslope geomorphology, and the earth as a system of which humans are a significant part.


EarthScope, funded by the National Science Foundation, is an organization aimed at studying the structure and evolution of North America and has been integral in the collection of many datasets with which these tectonic landform examples are drawn. EarthScope is aiding in the development of predictive models for earthquakes by unraveling the dynamic processes along faults, from stress build-up to catastrophic rock failure. Lidar data collected by Earthscope and hosted by OpenTopography enables scientists, teachers and the interested public to observe the processes and properties of faults that drive the earthquake machine. To learn more about the basics of earthquakes, please visit the Southern California Earthquake Center's (SCEC) education module about the nature of earthquakes: Investigation Earthquakes Through Regional Seismicity.



Landforms Created by Strike-Slip Faults


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Strike-Slip Fault Trace


Garlock Fault Zone, Ridgecrest, CA

When earthquakes occur on faults with pure strike-slip motion (near horizontal) through a landscape, creating a linear zone of mangled, easily eroded rock which over time creates a distinguishable fault trace. The example to the left is a segment of the Garlock Fault that cuts through part of a small range, creating a slight linear valley along strike. Faults often are portrayed as bold lines on maps, but it is easy to see that this visual transcribes to the natural world.

Exercise: 3D location of several earthquake hypocenters below the surface to try and create an accurate subsurface model of the fault.


EarthScope Southern & Eastern California LiDAR Projects




Offset Drainage


Wallace Creek, Carrizo Plain National Monument

Wallace creek is an example of a drainage area that has been physically altered by active faulting. An offset channel occurs when a channel that would normally be somewhat straight, crosses an active transform fault and is physically"beheaded" by the strike-slip movement of the downstream plate in one or numerous earthquakes. For more information about the geologic history of Wallace Creek, please read The San Andreas fault at Wallace Creek, San Luis Obispo County, California field guide by Kerry Sieh and Robert Wallace.

Exercise: Wallace Creek Student Field Trip Guide: The goal of this exercise is to give a better understanding to students about the earthquake cycle, strike-slip faulting, plate boundaries, and plate motion using Wallace Creek on the San Andreas Fault in California as an example.

B4 Project - Southern San Andreas and San Jacinto Faults


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Sag Pond


San Andreas Fault, California Central Cost Range

Sag ponds also called "pull-apart basin" are local depressions, sometimes with water, that form between extensional bends or stepovers in a fault zone. In the image to the right, two fault traces can be distinguished in the point cloud image (bottom) as the NW/SE trending topography. Since this is a right step on the San Andreas fault (right lateral), a localized area of extension is formed, creating the sag pond, which is the dark blue depression in the center of the point cloud image.

B4 Project - Southern San Andreas and San Jacinto Faults



Pressure Ridge


Dragon's Back Pressure Ridge, Carrizo Plain National Monument

Pressure ridges are topographic ridges ranging in size from a small meter scale mound to a lateral ridge several kilometers long. They are the surface expression of one or more earthquakes on specific fault geometries. Some of these known geometries include compressional bends or stepovers on strike-slip faults. A pressure ridge can be important for geologists because it can be a way to determine a fault's subsurface geometry and uplift history. The Dragon's Back pressure ridge (pictured) along the San Andreas Fault is described as to be the result of an obstruction on the fault plane's surface at depth which acts as a sort of bump that manifests as local uplift.

Exercise: Advanced analysis of basins along the Dragon's Back using GIS software. This exercise is intended for those familiar with ArcGIS and involves modeling basins along the dragon's back in order to quantify and compare basins in active uplift versus non-active uplift areas.


B4 Project - Southern San Andreas and San Jacinto Faults


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Shutter Ridge


San Andreas Fault, Point Reyes National Seashore

A shutter ridge is a topographic ridge that has been "carried" by movement on a strike-slip fault to block an existing topographic valley, deflecting a drainage or stream. The clarity of the hillshade (top) clearly shows the stream direction as straight, then being deflected north to run parallel to the fault at the base of the shutter ridge.

EarthScope Northern California LiDAR Project





Landforms Created by Normal Faults


Normal Fault Scarp


Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Normal faulting accommodates extension in the earth's crust and expresses on the surface as inclined fractures where blocks have mostly shifted vertically. A normal fault scarp forms when, during an earthquake, the hanging wall block has moved relatively downward to the footwall block. Pictured is a normal fault scarp at the base of the Teton Mountain range in Wyoming. The fault runs approximately perpendicular to moraines, remnant glacial features, creating a well-defined fault scarp as the break in slope moving up and down the rangefront.

EarthScope Intermountain Seismic Belt LiDAR Project


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Faceted Spurs


Manti-La Sal National Forest, Utah

Faceted spurs are flat, triangular slopes usually at the edge of a mountain front with an active normal fault at the base. They are created as normal faulting occurs creating a topographic expression called a fault scarp that is gradually eroded by the formation of drainages. As drainages form, they carve relatively straight down the fault scarp, creating series of triangular faces.

Central Utah: Topographic Amplification of Earthquake Ground Motions





Landforms Created by Reverse Faults


Anticline


Umtanum Ridge Anticline, Washington

An Anticline is an upward, individual bend or warp in a, typically, layered rock. Pictured (right) is Umtanum Ridge anticline, Washintgon which is part of a larger province of compression of Miocene Columbia river basalts called the Yakima fold-thrust belt. In the hillshade image (top), the rock layers are discernible as the darker areas making an upward arch of rock layers.

EarthScope Yakima LiDAR Project


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Volcanic Activity

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Cinder Cone


Fish Springs Cinder Cone, Eastern Sierra Nevada

A cinder cone is a conical shaped mass built by the acclimation of congealed lava ejected from a single vent. The cinder or scorias, which are types of igneous rock, contains numerous holes as a result of the gas-charged lava being blown violently into the air before falling back to the surface. Over time, the ejected material form the cone shape. The Fish Springs Cinder Cone is cut on the western edge (picture view is from the SE) by the Fish Springs fault.

EarthScope Southern & Eastern California LiDAR Project