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This item is available under a Creative Commons License for non-commercial use only

Publication Details

Annals of the Association of American Geographers

Volume 104, Issue 3, 2014


Although geographic features, such as mountains and coastlines, are fractal, some studies have claimed that the fractal property is not universal. This claim, which is dubious, is mainly attributed to the strict definition of fractal dimension as a measure or index for characterizing the complexity of fractals. In this article, we propose an alternative, ht-index, to quantify the fractal or scaling structure of geographic features. A geographic feature has ht-index (h) if the pattern of far more small things than large ones recurs (h – 1) times at different scales. The higher the ht-index, the more complex the geographic feature. We conduct three case studies to illustrate how the computed ht-indexes capture the complexity of different geographic features. We further discuss how ht-index is complementary to fractal dimension and elaborate on a dynamic view behind ht-index that enables better understanding of geographic forms and processes.