Spatial Temporal Earth
Login to FTP
Download files
Characterizing the Earth's patterns
The Team
Contact Us


Spatial Temporal Earth specializes in characterizing natural patterns.  These patterns often yield insight into the place and time they are found... landscapes and seascapes are created by a combination of biological and physical forces, while rural, urban, and cityscapes are further influenced by human interventions. 

The patterns that characterize a place include both visual and audio, as well as remotely sensed variables.  They tend to vary both spatially and temporally on a variety of scales. 

Cicadas and crickets might dominate the sounds of one place for the summer, while wind and traffic noise might be mostly heard in the same place during the winter.   Traffic noise might vary between rush hour and weekends. 

Trees, and the gaps between them, are often characteristic of forested regions.  The pattern of trees and gaps varies with the types of trees, the number of streams and rivers, the steepness of the hills, and other features particular to the area.  A pine forest has a very different pattern than a hardwood forest when seen from the air.   In the same way, the ground cover beneath the trees has it's own characteristic pattern of coverage and gaps, on smaller and smaller scales.  At some point,  the grain size of the soil begins to matter.

Many natural patterns can be characterized by using fractals, which describe the scaling properties of the system.  Scaling occurs when a system "looks like itself" at different scales.  For example, the shore around a lake or ocean has a pattern of inlets and points.  But within each inlet, there is a smaller scale pattern of smaller inlets and points, down to the scale of the sand or rocks on the beach. 

Benoit Mandelbrot described this phenomenon in a paper called "How Long Is the Coast of Britain? Statistical Self-Similarity and Fractional Dimension" in 1967.  He pointed out that if you measure the coast using a long ruler, let's say 100 feet, you get a different (shorter) number than if you measure it using a shorter ruler.  However, the amount the length differs by for different length rulers is consistent for a given type of coastline.  For Britain, the lenth changes differently than for Norway.  Each coast has its own characteristic scaling, which can also be characterized as a fractal dimension. Since the differences in the two coastline's fractal dimensions are due to the types of geology and weathering in the two places, it is not hard to see that there is a link between the pattern you see in the coastline, and the processes that sculpted the coastlines.   

Spatial Temoral Earth explores the patterns that characterize different areas, and the underlying processes.  Our goal is to share them, and explain them in a variety of venues, from elementary schools to community colleges, and from international scientific conferences to government agencies.


AboutLogin to FTPDownload filesAphID