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Much of the current knowledge of the Earth system stops just beneath Earth’s surface. Even the top 10 m of the shallow underground—the critical zone where life, air, soil, water, and rock interact—are underexplored. Excavation and drilling, today’s most often applied methods for shallow-subsurface assessment, render an incomplete picture of three-dimensional architectures and dynamic processes. Very dense ground-penetrating radar survey grids and three-dimensional data processing produce clear images of complex shallow-subsurface anatomy. Our field examples show submeter-resolution 3D images of human activity remnants, sedimentary structures, and fractures with millimeter aperture. Vertical animation of high-resolution horizontal slices reveals characteristic internal textures of sedimentary bodies and fracture patterns—this provides an entirely new view of the shallow subsurface.

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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation, the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund, the University of Miami Innovative Teaching and Technology Initiative, and the Sponsors of the Comparative Sedimentology Laboratory in Miami.



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