Table 5. 

Types of uncertainty encountered in geoscience fieldwork (from Jones et al. 2004)

Type of uncertaintyExamples
Data acquisition
Positional‘How sure am I of my current location?’
‘How reliable is my base map?’
‘What is the precision of my GPS measurements?’
‘Is the borehole straight, or has it deviated without me knowing?’
Measurement‘What is the precision of my clinometer?’
‘What is the accuracy of my dip and strike readings?’
Scale-dependent variability‘How much does the dip and strike vary over the scale of the outcrop?’
‘Is my reading representative of the surrounding area?’
Observational‘Is this rock best described as a granite?’
‘Is this fossil the brachiopod Pentamerus?’
‘Is that a stretching lineation or an intersection lineation?’
Temporal‘How reliable is this way-up criterion?’
‘Is the relative age of these structures identified correctly?’
Sampling bias‘Are my data biased by the natural predominance of subhorizontal exposures?’
‘Has my sampling been skewed by me focusing only on the zones of high strain?’
Primary interpretation
Correlation‘Is this limestone the same unit as the limestone at the last outcrop?’
‘Is it valid to correlate the S2 fabric here with the S2 fabric observed on the other side of the area?’
Interpolation‘How likely is it that all the ground between these two outcrops of slate also consists of slate?’
‘How much control do I have over the geometry of this fold trace?’
Inference from topography‘Is there really a fault running along the unexposed valley floor?’
‘Does this sharp change in slope correspond to a lithological boundary?’
Compound interpretation
Finished 2D map Geological cross-section‘how can I quantify the uncertainty associated with this sophisticated interpretive model that I have slowly built up through a long iterative process of data collection and individual primary interpretations?!’
3D structural model