Research projects

The term "sense of place" indicates the overall characteristics of a given geographic site. The project SameSense aims at developing a series of technologies for identifying all sites in a spatial dataset that share the same "sense of place." SameSense enables quantification of the overall similarity between any two sites on the basis of all available attributes or a desired subset of those attributes. For terrestrial applications available attributes include: land cover pattern, landscape, climate, and soil pattern, as well as anthropogenic, census-derived information. Most of these attributes are derived from data gathered remotely by spacecraft. For planetary applications available attributes include: landscape, albedo, mineralogy, and other surface properties derived from spacecraft-gathered data.

Geomorphons is a novel method for the classification and mapping of landform elements from a DEM and is based on the principles of pattern recognition rather than differential geometry. At the core of the method is the concept of the geomorphon (geomorphologic phonotypes) - a simple ternary pattern that serves as an archetype of local terrain morphology. Geomorphons are terrain attributes and landform types at the same time; a set of 498 geomorphons contains all possible morphological types of local terrain. A single scan of a DEM assigns an appropriate geomorphon to every cell in the raster using a procedure that self-adapts to identify the most suitable spatial scale at each location. As a result, the method classifies landform elements at a range of different spatial scales with unprecedented computational efficiency. Read more about Geomorphons here, or watch a video of a talk given at the Geomorphometry 2011 conference. Geomorphons software was used to produce 30 meter/cell geomorphometric maps of the entire country of Poland and the entire conterminous United States (available through the DataEye-USA viewer). The software is in the public domain and is available here. A web-based app for calculating geomorphons from user-provided DEMs is also available.

LandEx (Landscape Explorer) is a GeoWeb-based tool for finding locations of land cover patterns similar to a user-provided sample. At present, LandEx has been implemented to work with land cover data covering the entire area of the conterminous United States

New users are encouraged to take a look at the LandEx user guide first before using these apps.


TerraEx (Terrain Explorer) is a GeoWeb-based tool for finding locations of landscape patterns similar to a user-provided sample. At present, TerraEx has been implemented to work with terrain data covering the entire area of the country of Poland. New users are encouraged to take a look at TerraEx user guide first before using these apps.


ClimateEx (Climate Explorer) is a GeoWeb-based tool which allows to search for similar climates all over the World. ClimateEx works on the principle of query-by-example. A user identifies a location, and a local climate at this location (a query) is compared to all other local climates in a grid using the DTW (Dynamic Time Warping).  The  result  is  a  grid  of  the  same  size  as  the  data  grid  but  storing  the  values  of similarity  between  a  query and  local  climates.  Visualizing  these  values  reveals  a  map showing similarity relations between the climate in the query location and climates in all  other  sites  in  the  world.
A  local  climate is  defined  as  a  12-months-long time  series of mean air temperature, air temperature variability, sum of monthly precipitation  at a  single  grid  cell.
The data  is corrected  to  remove  phase  shift  caused  by  sun  position  change  during  the  year. The  DTW algorithm  calculates  the  distance between any  two  local  climates. DTW is calculated  using  normalized  data  and modified  to yield  results  in  a  range 0  to  1.


SocScape (Social Landscape) is a GeoWeb-based viewer  for exploration of patterns in high resolution (30m or 90 m) demographic grids covering the entire conterminous United States. At present SocScape includes two demographic variables, population density and racial diversity. Currently, grids for 1990, 2000 and 2010 year are available. These grids have been calculated from U.S. Census block-level data using dasymetric modelling with land cover as auxiliary variable.
SocScape can be useful for  fast and intuitive exploration of population density and racial diversity in different scale (from U.S down to individual street), detecting change in spatial dynamics of population density and racial diversity, downloading of population density or racial diversity data for future analysis in external GIS software or image ready to use in publication.


DataEye is a GeoWeb-based viewer for large datasets. It is intended to provide convenient access to datasets created at the SIL. At present, DataEye has been implemented to view and distribute a US-wide geomorphometric map and a US-wide map of pattern-based change of land cover during the 2001-2006 period. It also provides access to several other relevant US-wide data layers available in the public domain such as land cover and land surface forms.

Published on  February 4th, 2016