Fractals on the Earth

February 7, 2009 by  
Filed under Fractals in Nature

Our planet is full of fractals. Mountain ranges are a beautiful example of fractals. You can find these kinds of patterns in the Rockies, the Andes, the Alps and the Himalayas.

You can discover countless examples of fractals yourself with the amazing and free Google Earth program.

Zoom into the natural fractals on Earth! Download “NaturalFractals.kmz” to go on a great fractal expedition, or play around in the program and discover your own natural fractals!

Canadian Rockies
Sabinoso canyons of New Mexico

Sabinoso canyons of New Mexico

River networks – or watersheds – form fractal canyons, built by the repeated erosion from countless rainstorms over eons.

Coastline of Chile

Coastline of Chile

Coastlines are another common fractal on the Earth. More details emerge the closer you examine a coastline. The whole field of fractal geometry began by asking the question “How long is the coast of Britain?” The answer is that it depends on how closely you measure it, and when you examine the coastline with a finer and finer ruler, its length approaches infinity.

Lakes/ponds/puddles on the north slope of Alaska.

Lakes/ponds/puddles on the north slope of Alaska. Scale???

Bodies of water can be fractals too, as we observe in many flat, wet places. The same shapes occur over a wide range of scales, the hallmark of a fractal.


7 Responses to “Fractals on the Earth”
  1. FractalMan says:

    I’m working on a package of natural fractal destinations you can travel to in Google Earth. The problem is, I keep finding more great places to share, it’s hard to stop! But I will post a KMZ file of my favorite spots soon…

  2. Francis says:

    This is wonderful! Thanks for sharing – we will definitely be doing this activity in my 4th grade classroom. Keep up the great work!

  3. Jackson says:

    I especially love the natural fractal zoom in the planetarium show! Google Earth rocks, and so does First Friday Fractals!!!

  4. Paula Fowler says:


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  6. Amanda says:

    That final image is actually the Lena River Delta in northern Siberia. … And this particular version is from the USGS series, “Earth as Art.” I have a copy hanging on my wall. :)


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