The Atlantic Cities' Nate Berg reports, "LandEx is a sort of search engine for maps that can scan through and identify places in the U.S. that have a similar land coverage or ecological patterns...the program classifies satellite imagery of the earth's surface into 16 different land cover types – from scrub to pasture to deciduous forest to high intensity development. The map enables users to select a small area, about two miles wide, and then searches the rest of the country for places with similar conditions."
A 'heat map' of land uses is then created showing similar places across the U.S. to one selected. For example, selecting urban grid sections highlights similar grid patterns in other cities; center-pivot irrigation in Arizona's desert highlights similar patterns in drier parts of Texas and Washington.
"The general principle can be used to search and explore all spatial data including topographic data, climate data, soil data, ecosystems, and socio-economic data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau," Stepinski says. "The ultimate goal is to offer the user a total search for a sense of place."