GB3D — 3D geological model for Great Britain

GB3D national bedrock fence diagram.

Screenshot of a GB3D cross section demonstrated in Google Earth.

The bedrock geological map of Great Britain has been extended into the third dimension with the release of GB3D 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 may also prove to be a useful tool to help explain complex geological relationships to the public and in education.

From plan view...

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

... to slicing the layer cake

The GB3D geological model uses digital cross sections of the geology across Great Britain and joins them up in a 'fence diagram'.

You can open cross sections of GB3D, in Google Earth for example, to rotate, tilt and zoom into an area of interest and interrogate a geological layer — at depth — at your point 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

An update of GB3D was released in February 2015. This new version includes the extension of selected cross-sections into the nearshore zone around England and Wales. GB3D 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. GB3D has been part-funded by Radioactive Waste Management 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 GB3D 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]".

    1. download the viewer and install (high spec graphics card required; details in the user manual that is included in the data download)
    2. download the model data from this page and save
    3. open the viewer software and use the file menu to open the model *.gsipre file
      (this may take 3–5 minutes)

    Known issue: in the 3D Window use a vertical exaggeration of X11 to view colours correctly for all attributes.

Other downloads


For further information contact Jon Ford or for more information on the download formats contact Enquiries.