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Detrending Great Basin elevation to identify structural patterns for identifying geothermal favorability

December 1, 2023

Topography provides information about the structural controls of the Great Basin and therefore information that may be used to identify favorable structural settings for geothermal systems. The Nevada Machine Learning Project (NVML) tested the use of a digital elevation map (DEM) of topography as an input feature to predict geothermal system favorability. A recent study re-examines the NVML data, identifying the DEM as the most important feature, showing a broad uniform pattern of high-favorability in the lower-elevation west and low-favorability in the higher elevation east of their study area in north-central Nevada. This regional elevation trend conflicts with the geologic notion that local relative topography should be used to identify geologic structures associated with favorable structural settings for hydrothermal upflow. Specifically, local relative topography gives information about position in the mountains, in the valleys, or at the transitions between, aiding in identification of faults and fault intersections. As part of U.S. Geological Survey efforts to engineer features that are useful for predicting geothermal resources, we construct a detrended elevation map that emphasizes local relative topography and highlights features that geologists use for identifying geothermal systems (i.e., providing machine learning algorithms with features that may improve predictive skill by emphasizing the information used by geologists). Herein, we describe the removal of the regional trend in elevation to emphasize the basin-and-range scale structural features, creating detrended elevation maps.
Regional elevation trends were estimated using a local linear regression and subtracted from the actual elevation using a 30-m DEM. In an effort to optimize the detrended surface, alternate versions were produced with different rates of smoothness resulting in three detrended elevation maps. The resulting elevation trend surfaces (a proxy for crustal thickness) are compared with conductive heat flow maps, and a general pattern was observed of a negative correlation between heat flow and regional elevation in many areas, indicating that thinner crust may be causing elevated heat flow in some areas and thicker crust may cause the observed heat flow lows. Because these detrended elevation maps emphasize geologic structure and relative displacement, these products may also be useful for other geologic research including mineral exploration, hydrologic research, and defining geologic provinces.

Publication Year 2023
Title Detrending Great Basin elevation to identify structural patterns for identifying geothermal favorability
Authors Jacob DeAngelo, Erick Burns, Stanley Paul Mordensky, Cary Ruth Lindsey
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Geothermal Resources Council Transactions
Index ID 70250639
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geology, Minerals, Energy, and Geophysics Science Center