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Display vertical contoured sections in Surfer’s 3D View

t_20180612-192534_1 Display vertical sections using Surfer

Every so often we get contacted by users who would like to display contoured vertical sections of geophysical data, like GPR, gravity, or magnetic readings. Until recently, it wasn't possible to do this in Surfer, but with the new 3D Viewer and a little bit of data manipulation, you can! This workflow is easiest if your vertical sections run parallel to each other.

Consider this example: You have some lines of geophysical measurements that were taken in the field with a 10 meter spacing:

An example of geophysical survey lines in the field.

You bring these measurements into Surfer and grid each line of data separately, giving you five contour maps representing the XZ domain. But how can you display them in the appropriate position? Overlaying all five as 3D surface maps won't work. What you can do in Surfer 15 is overlay contours onto planar 3D surfaces representing the survey line offset position, then turn on the 3D View

Here's the basic workflow:

Using the Grid Function tool (Grids | New Grid | Grid Function), create five planar grid files where the Z value is equivalent to the horizontal spacing between the geophysical survey lines, and the Grid Geometry (the X and Y Minimum and Maximum) is equivalent to the dimensions of your contoured grid files. In our example, since the lines are 10 meters apart, we will have five planar grid files with Z values of 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50.

The next step is to create a 3D surface map that contains all of the planar grid files as 3D surfaces, and all of the geophysical grids as contour maps. In our example, the Contents window looks like this: 

The Contents window after creating a 3D surface map and adding all the layers.
In the Contents window, select one of the 3D surfaces. In the Properties windows, select the Overlays tab, and change the Color modulation setting to Use color overlay only. For each contour map layer, choose the appropriate levels, labels, contour fill and colormap options to suit your needs. At this stage, the properties for one contour layer are applied to all of the surfaces in the Plot view. That's fine - we'll adjust which contours display on each surface in the 3D View.
The 3D surface map after editing the contour layer properties.

When you're happy with the contour map appearance, click Map Tools | View | 3D View. In the 3D View Contents window, expand the Surfaces section. Uncheck all of the contours boxes, leaving only the planar surface showing. Select each planar grid one by one, and in the Textures to Display section of the Properties window, check the matching contours layer for that geophysical line.

The 3D View Contents window showing the required data setup.

  Now, using the Trackball and Pan commands, you can orient the slices however you want.

If you don't yet have Surfer 15, download the trial today. Please shoot us an email at if you have any questions about this workflow,



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Thursday, 03 December 2020

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