Analogue modelling (geology)

Analogue modelling is a laboratory experimental method using uncomplicated physical models (such as a sandbox) with certain simple scales of time and length to model geological scenarios and simulate geodynamic evolutions.[1][2]

Pure shear sandbox model of thrust fault formation

There are numerous limitations affecting the direct study of the Earth. Firstly, the timescales of geodynamic processes are exceptionally long (millions of years), and most of the processes started long before human records.[1][3] Secondly, the length scales of geodynamic processes are enormous (thousands of kilometres), and most of them happen at depth within the Earth.[1][3] Thus, scientists began making proportional small-scale simulations of features in the natural world to test geological ideas. Analogue models can directly show the whole structural pattern in 3D and cross-section. They are helpful in understanding the internal structures and the progressive development of Earth's deforming regions.[1]

Analogue modelling has been widely used for geodynamic analysis and to illustrate the development of different geological phenomena. Models can explore small-scale processes, such as folding and faulting, or large-scale processes, such as tectonic movement and interior Earth structures.[1][4]

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