Making geology relevant: Can geologists do it?
Jenny Walsby (British Geological Survey - firstname.lastname@example.org)
How many people understand a geology map and use it to assess the ground they live on or plan to develop? How many town planners, house owners, insurers know that geology can identify areas prone to flooding, radon gas emissions, landslides and clays that swell and shrink? Concerned about these questions, geologists and GIS professionals at the BGS have created data sets that make information about geological hazards easy to use and understand.
Utilising the vast data holdings and geoscience knowledge of BGS and building on past thematic mapping activities, a series of national geohazard data sets have been developed. In simple terms, the 1:50K scale digital map data (DiGMapGB-50) has been combined with topographic data and BGS database information, then classified in terms of different geohazards using GIS (Geographical Information Systems) technology. The geohazards are described in lay-terms and provided in different formats to meet different needs.
Geohazard is an emotive term and many people think of natural hazards as being large-scale disasters such as tsunami and major earthquakes. In order to explain the relevance of the usually less dramatic British geohazards, that is the potential cost and health implications, appropriate terminology is required. For example, for a house built on an area of swell-shrink clay the data is labelled with advice not to plant or remove trees or shrubs near to buildings and that there could be a higher insurance risk in droughts. Similar GIS data sets with "English" descriptions have been created for radon potential, natural gas emissions, landslides, compressible and collapsible deposits, soluble rocks, running sands and groundwater flooding.
For local planning and environmental health officers the data can be incorporated into their own GI Systems and combined with their own information to aid decision-making and reporting. For members of the public and consultants the GIS data can be output in paper or PDF reports written in plain English and available from BGS or one of the many organisations that incorporate BGS data into their own reporting systems. Geological information is thus able to meet a wider audience and reveal to the British Public how geology can be used in conjunction with other information and why it is relevant to their lives.