An international symposium on geographic information systems (GIS), entitled “GIS: Integrating Technology and Geoscience Applications,” was held September 26–30, 1988, in Denver, Colo. GIS is a relatively recent technology for managing, retrieving, modeling, and displaying large spatial data bases and has its primary application in analysis of maps of all sorts.
A map is a two-dimensional portrayal of related geographic, geologic, and geophysical attributes on paper. In fact, many geophysical applications can be used and interpreted only in terms of a map. For example, the processing of seismic data is contingent on the shot point and geophone location and elevation. Without these essential spatial relationships, there is no meaningful seismic section. Of course, the ultimate interpretation of seismic, as well as other geophysical, data is the representation of the attributes of a portion of Earth as a map. The procedure that consumes the most time and labor in geophysical analysis is not data processing, but the production of an accurate and fully annotated base map, complete with cultural and geologic information and other thematic values. The basic management of geophysical data also commands significant resources, and frequently becomes unmanageable as data are archived. The loss of data and the inability to search for and retrieve “old” data for inclusion during the development and course of a project constitute a staggering problem, recognized by every organization involved with geophysical and geologic data.