In order to understand the evolution of sedimentary basins, it is important to understand their tectonic setting. In a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) study of the Uinta and Piceance basins in Utah and Colorado, this understanding is approached through characterization of subsurface structure and lithology of a large region encompassing the basins. An important tool for interpreting these subsurface features is aeromagnetic data.
Aeromagnetic anomalies represent variations in the strength and direction of the Earth‘s magnetic field that are produced by rocks containing a significant number of magnetic minerals (commonly magnetite). The shape and magnitude of an anomaly produced by one body of rock are complexly related to the amount of magnetic minerals present, the magnetic properties of those minerals (determined by a number of factors, including the history of the rock), and the shape of the rock body. In the study area, only crystalline basement rocks and volcanic rocks are likely to contain enough magnetic minerals to produce anomalies; sedimentary rocks and metasediments are generally so poor in magnetic minerals that their magnetic effects cannot be detected by the types of surveys presented in this report. Patterns of anomalies on aeromagnetic maps can reveal not only lithologic differences related to magnetite content, but structural features as well, such as faults that have juxtaposed crystalline rocks against sedimentary rocks, and upwarps of crystalline basement underlying sedimentary sequences.
Tectonic features of regional extent may not become apparent until a number of aeromagnetic surveys have been compiled and plotted at the same scale. Commonly the compilation involves piecing together data from surveys that were flown at different times and have widely disparate flight specifications and data reduction procedures. The data may be compiled into a composite map, where all the pieces are plotted onto one map without regard to the differences in flight elevation and datum, or they may be compiled into a merged map, where all survey data are analytically reduced to a common flight elevation and datum, and then digitally merged at the survey boundaries. The composite map retains the original resolution of all survey data, but computer methods to enhance or model regional features crossing the survey boundaries cannot be applied. On the other hand, these computer methods can be applied to the merged data, but the resolution of the data may be somewhat diminished. This report presents both composite and merged aeromagnetic maps for a large region that includes the Uinta Basin in Utah and the Piceance basin in Colorado (fig. 1).