UK3D — 3D geological model for the United Kingdom

UK3D national bedrock fence diagram.

Screenshot of UK3D cross sections demonstrated in Google Earth. The sections are displayed with two times vertical exaggeration.

The bedrock geological map of the United Kingdom has been extended into the third dimension with the release of UK3D and is shown as a network of cross sections through the earth's crust.

This new way of visualising 3D national-scale geology will benefit people seeking to understand its relationship to landscape and resources such as water, oil, minerals, coal and gas. It also provides a useful tool to help explain complex geological relationships to the public and in education.

From plan view ...

Conventional 2D geological maps typically show the rocks found at the surface and include one or two cross sections, representing a slice through the earth's crust, that show the relationship of the different rock layers in the ground at depth; the face of such maps.

... to slicing the layer cake

The UK3D geological model uses digital cross sections of the geology beneath the United Kingdom and joins them up in a 'fence diagram'.

You can open cross sections of UK3D, in Google Earth for example, to rotate, tilt and zoom into an area of interest and interrogate a geological layer — at depth — below your area of interest.

This national-scale model will help users to better visualise the subsurface at county, regional and national scale. This is particularly useful for example in modelling the flow and storage of water supplies between numerous aquifers.

The individual cross sections are created using the geological modelling software GSI3D, which uses information on the geology at depth from boreholes and geophysical surveying.

The new version

The latest update of UK3D was released in February 2016. This new version includes Northern Ireland and incorporates developments on the previous 2015 release, which included the extension of selected cross-sections into the nearshore zone around England and Wales. UK3D forms part of BGS's work on better communicating the geology of the UK and is accompanied by brief accounts of the regional geology of England, Wales and Northern Ireland which were published in 2014. The latest development of UK3D has been funded by Radioactive Waste Management Ltd who plan to use it to support work it is doing on national geological screening.


The model is available for free download in a number of formats, including 3D PDF, 3D Shapefiles, KMZ (for Google Earth), in the bespoke BGS Viewer and as files for use in specialist geological modelling packages.

Terms of use

The UK3D downloads listed here are delivered under the Open Government Licence, subject to the following acknowledgement accompanying the reproduced BGS materials: "Contains British Geological Survey materials © NERC [year]".

Other downloads


For further information contact Enquiries.

British Geological Survey
NG12 5GG
Telephone: 0115 936 3143
Fax: 0115 936 3276