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The goal of measuring a stratigraphic column is to accurately characterize the thickness of

different rock types. This data can be used to interpret depositional environments, variations
insediment type, changes in sedimentation rate in space and time, etc. Most detailed
interpretations require an accurate measure of how much of each rock type is present, bed
thicknesses, etc. It is easy to measure the thickness of flat-lying beds; you can put a ruler next
to them and measure from bottom to top. For beds that have been tilted or folded, more care
is needed. Measurements need to be made perpendicular to the bedding. Otherwise, results
will depend on the amount of folding and the direction you are looking rather than the
depositional processes that formed the rock.
Geologists often use a Jacob’s Staff to measure bedding thicknesses. A Jacob’s Staff is a 1.5
meter-long pole that is marked off in suitable units, such as decimeters. It has an attachment
for a Brunton at 1.5 m above the base of the pole. The Brunton is used as a clinometer to
measure the angle of the pole from vertical and helps align the Jacob’s Staff perpendicular to
bedding for accurate measurements.
To measure bed thickness, place the Jacob’s Staff on the bedding plane at the base of the beds
you want to measure. Next align the staff at right angles to bedding and sight downdip,
perpendicular to strike, to the beds. The distance from the base of the staff to the sight point
on the Brunton is equal to the thickness of strata between the base of the staff and the point
There are a number of steps for doing this measurement accurately:
1. Measure the strike and dip of bedding where you intend to measure the section; record the
and set the clinometer on the Brunton to the angle of dip.
2. Place the Brunton securely in the attachment on the Jacob’s Staff, and open the compass lid
about 60°.
3. Place the staff at the base of the unit to be measured and tilt it downdip (exactly
to strike) until the clinometer bubble in the Brunton is centered.
4. Study the point sighted on the ground and decide if the staff can be placed on it for your

describing the rocks in this unit. In addition. 7. Thus. when sighting up or down a slope. one tends to tilt the staff so that it is perpendicular to the grounds surface. Lines of sight typically become shorter.measurement. Using a Jacob’s Staff and Brunton requires sighting through a small hole. 2A). it is worth learning to measure accurately now. move the base of the staff along the lower bedding surface until a suitable point can be sighted. and make your next measurement. viewing the clinometer face on and making the projection to the ground by estimation (Fig 2B). however. When the staff is correctly oriented with the clinometer. so accuracy is maintained (Fig. Proceed similarly to the top of the unit. sighting becomes easier with practice. the geologist can kneel and look along strike. can cause large errors in measurement. You have measured 1. if so. the error should be no more than a few centimeters per measure and will tend to average out in successive measurements. however. giving a systematic over or under estimate of true stratigraphic thicknesses. If the base of the Jacob’s Staff can not be placed on the point you sighted for your next measurement. This gives errors that tend to accumulate through a series of measurements.5 meters of section. If some beds stick up . 6.5 meter-thick interval using the Jacob’s Staff or a ruler. Draw your stratigraphic column. Sighting with a Jacob’s Staff becomes increasingly awkward as dips become steeper. Move the base of the Jacob’s Staff to the sited point. and it may be tempting to save time by estimating the alignment of the staff rather than using the clinometer. For dips greater than 70°. 5. Moderate errors in alignment. note the point carefully by eye or place an object at that point. Measure the positions of beds within this 1.

However. using modified techniques. The UCD Geology Jacob’s Staffs have a fixed mount for the Bruntons. There are a wide variety of methods available for measuring stratigrapliic sections. the more time consuming it is. It is possible to measure layer thickness along some line or in a plane that is not nonnal to strike.5 meters by removing the Brunton from the mount and carefully holding it along the edge of the Jacob’s Staff in the proper orientation. Measuring Techniques Figure Al -1 shows the general variables involved in measuring the thickness of layered rocks. You can place the Brunton anywhere along the staff to measure an arbitrary thickness. In general. the more precise the method. it may be necessary to measure the thicknesses of the lowlying beds and weathering-resistant beds separately. Be careful to accurately record the thickness represented by each measurement. Compass and Tape methods Figure Al-2 shows an example of how to measure a stratigraphic section using a compass and measuring tape. but corrections must be made to your “apparent thickness” measurements when this is done. Each of them can be adapted to the particular environment in which you are operating.significantly higher than others. you can site distances shorter than 1. and can only be measured in a plane nonnal to bedding strike. Note that Tis the true thickness of the rocks. especially if they are different for each measurement. This method can be subdivided into several general steps: .

Set the compass inclinometer to this dip angle. slope slope distance angle (a) s by for sighting the tip interval and of down interest. 4. a geologist can make fairly rapid measurements of stratigraphic thicknesses in the following manner: 1. Extend a measuring tape parallel to the dip direction of the rocks and across the outcrop width of the section of interest. Since a section is unlikely to be an integer number of eyeheights or staff heights. After measuring lier eyeheight. 2. 3. Measure the 4. and tise this distance as a unit measuring length to calculate section thicknesses. Calculate the true thickness from: Heweett method (1920) This method eliminates the need to measure the surface slope length (s). and thereby increases the speed which with a section can be measured. the Hewett method requires the geologist to detennine their eyeheight (E). the vertical distance from the ground to their eyes. Determine the 5. hi place of these twoparameters. and slope dip (). While looking in the direction of a traverse line peipendicular to bedding strike. If the section is longer than your tape. Measure the strike and dip (6) of rocks in the section of iiterest. Move to the newly sited position and record one eyeheight of measured stratigraphic thickness 5. you will have to proceed. the geologist will . 2. Measure the strike and dip (6) of rocks. site through the compass to some point on the ground that lies along the traverse line .1. 3. Repeat steps l-4 until reaching the cud of the section of interest. the tape.

the slope length rs). the (+) sign is used when the slope and bedding dip in opposite directions.e. 6. E is the eyeheight of the measuring geologist.commoiily have to estimate the fractional coniponent of the section lie or she last encounters. another geometric parameter enters into the equations for calculating section thickness.When calculating section thickness in this way. calculate the section thickness (I) using: where n is the number of eyelieights it took to traverse the section. the section thickness (T) can be calculated from: As in the compass and tape methods. the slope clip (a). . Mertie method (1922) It is often impossible to conchict a traverse perpendicular to the strike of the section of interest. the bedding dip (6) and the traverse trend (a). a = 900). and the trend of the traverse line (Figure Al -4). In these circumstances. strike-oblique traverse. we must know four geometric parameters. This new parameter is the acute angle (a) between the line of strike of the section of interest. and the (-) sign is used when they dip in the same direction. this equation reduces to the simple equation given iuicler Compass and Tape Methods. When these numbers are known. when the geologist can follow a straight-line. Note that when the traverse is perpendicular to strike (i. After traversing the section of interest. and 6 is the dip of the rocks.

To do this. covered intervals. Stratigraphic limits. Title: hclude the formation(s) measured. Starting and Ending Points: use either a stratigraphic top or bottom as the starting and/or ending points of your measured section. such as adjacent formations. 2. that you must still use the true dip (8) in the equation for calculating section thickness. should be indicated at the proper places in the section.The Mertie (1922) method can also be modified and combined with the Hewett (1920) method to create a rapid technique for measuring section thickness along a straight-line strike oblique traverse. however. the variation in total thickness. etc.. If you are using eyeheight. and the iiitenial variations in the formation that may help you identify it in the field and which may be large enough to appear on the scale of your map. hilltops. you need to accurately establish the total formation thickness. making sure your description is sufficient to permit others to fmd the place where you measured your section and therefore follow your work. record your eyeheight as the standard used. The number of eyeheights (E) along the traverse are counted accordingly and used in the equation given under Hewett’s method. the aggregate thickness of a formation whose thickness is loo m. For example. one would set the compass clinometer to the apparent dip of bedding observed along the traverse line and then sight each new position along the strikeoblique traverse using this apparent dip angle. In this case. 1. the geographic location. you need not describe variations that occur on the scale of centimeters if your main purpose for measuring a section is to establish for mapping puiposes. Practical Field Procedures Wlieii Measuring Stratigraphic Sections The items in the list below should be incorporated in your field notes when you are measuring stratigraphic sections. alluvium. Note. and the method of measurement. Give a geographic description of both the starting and ending points. Remember that you should draw a balance between the detail of your description and your purpose for measuring the section. .

It does not matter whether Unit 1 is the oldest or youngest bed in the section. in serial order. make sure to measure and be certain: dip changes of only a few degrees can cause significant errors in your thickness measurements. See the section titled ‘Field Description of Rocks. indicating where you side-stepped or altered the course of your traverse. Unit Descriptions: Provide a complete description of each unit in your section. Side Steppùig and Traverse Maps: Remember that you can pass obstacles along your section line by “side-stepping. or if your traverse is anything but a straight line. Even if the attitude seenis unifonn.” in Appendix 1 for some guidelines on what to include in your rock descriptions. the attitude of a bed or group of beds should be indicated at the appropriate places in the section. 5. Attitude of Beds: If the attitude is uniform. otherwise. Your description should include at least the following: 6.” or moving laterally along strike at the same stratigraphic position. you should include a map of your traverse.3. and then continuing along with your strike—normal traverse. as well as the bearing of the traverse line. Unit Numbers: Each described unit should be given a number. it should be stated in the heading. . If you do this. Show the length of each straight section of the traverse. 4.

bedding orientation. Data Table: Keep your data organized and spatially related in your notebook. traverse trend.7. Because we usually measure sections from bottom to top. with older rocks at the bottom and the beginning and bottom of your notes. and yrnmger rocks at the top and end of your ilotes. and oilier things like who was doing the measuring. the difficulty of the terrain. this will keep your notes in proper stratigraphic order. . etc. Unit numbers and theircorresponding descriptions go on the left-hand page of your notebook. right-hand page. It will be easier to reconstruct what you did if you keep your data in some sort of table that associates your observations with your measurements of thickness. Leave some space along the far right edge for notes about sidestepping. whereas the graphic representation of the colunui. The diagram below is an example of how to lay out your field notebook when measuring stratigraphic sections. along with strike and dip and traverse bearing data all go on the facing. Think of tile diagram as spreading across two facing pages of your notebook. Begin at the bottom ofeach pair ofpages and work your wa’ to the top of a page. etc.