First Look at Natural Earth Vector

Tom Patterson and I collaborated on the precursor to his first Natural Earth Raster project several years ago and we now preview Natural Earth Raster + Vector, a new free product due Fall 2009 that complements and expands on the previous work by providing detailed GIS linework at the 1:15,000,000 (1:15 million) scale and new versions of the raster product (including cross-blended hyspometric tints). The Washington Post, where I work, is contributing 2 more vector GIS base maps at the 1:50m and 1:110m scales and new versions of Natural Earth Raster will be released for those scales. This is a NACIS and mapgiving co-branded product with assistance from the University of Wisconson-Madison cartography lab, Florida State University, and others.

Please attend the October NACIS 2009 map conference in Sacramento, California for the unveiling.

More description and preview images after the jump.


Why are we doing this project?

We want to see better maps at the 1:15m and smaller scales. Print cartographers don’t have good, free, attributed linework at these scales (points, lines, polygons). Figuring out which of 1000s of placenames to include on a map at a certain scale can be prohibitive, so we are incorporating and building on the map features in Tom’s Physical Map of the World. While the online mapping services (open and closed) are doing a great job making local street maps, they don’t have good linework at the more generalized scales, and the features shown at those scales don’t always make a lot of sense, geographically speaking.

For print cartographers and GIS folks:

This dataset will allow you to make beautiful and authoritative political and physical world maps quickly – from the large wall map variety down to postcard size. Instead of spending time looking for data, you will be able to focus on using the map to tell your geographic story. You will be able to map at the continent and country levels (including showing provinces and some local cities, regional, and “world” cities). The data will be fully attributed and we get into the nitty gritty details like disputed boundaries & tiny ocean islands and the beautiful with hypsometric tints & relief shading.

For web mappers:

The data will come attributed for the smallest (farthest zoomed out) 5 levels. We are including three more “half” steps between those scales to provide opportunity to finesse the cartographic display. We’re are also investigating how to deliver this as precut web map tiles for use in mashups via a WMS. Since this will be open source, we hope the major web mapping providers like Google, Yahoo! and Open Street Maps will incorporate it into their maps directly. We are investigating how to include a gazetteer of all the placenames, including their LatLng (LongLat) bounding box extent. Combined with topology, this will allow a robust WFS.

Layer list (subject to change):

  1. Continents (North America, Europe, Asia, etc)
  2. Cultural regions (South Asia, West Africa, etc)
  3. Countries (US, Canada, Mexico, etc)
  4. Country sub-divisions (for the US, states, semi-independent territories, dependencies, associations)
  5. Disputed territories (like Kashmir, Northern Cyprus)
  6. 1st order admins (states, provs)
  7. Bathymetry
  8. Lakes
  9. Lake Center Lines
  10. Rivers (including attributes that allow easy “tapering” of drains)
  11. Islands
  12. Glaciers
  13. Populated places (urban boundaries, not city points)
  14. Cities (point locations)
  15. Physical features like peaks, ranges, valleys, plains
  16. New Natural Earth raster files in 5 flavors (hypsometric tints, relief shading, land cover)

Please note: All layers are available with 8 zoom levels on 3 vector map bases.

How you can help:

This is a large project and we’d like your help. Do you have 10 to 20 hours in summer + fall 2009 to help with the physical feature name compilation or are you a good editor who can catch mistakes? We need you! We are also looking for help on the web mapping side to get our WMS and WFS up and running. Please email me at nathaniel@kelsocartography.com for more information.

Screenshots:

Please note: the Natural Earth Vector screenshots below show one particular data theme at a time. A final WMS for Natural Earth would composite multiple themes. Natural Earth Vector is a draft product and subject to change. Colors and other graphic styling, including text labels, are for data exploration, compilation only and do not reflect final treatment.

(below) United States rivers from Natural Earth Vector:
View same area in Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, or Open Street Map

riversus_ne

(below) St. Pierre et Miquelon (part of France off eastern Canada) from Natural Earth Vector:
View same area in Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, or Open Street Map

stpierremiq_ne

(below) Baltic Sea islands in Natural Earth Vector:
View same area in Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, or Open Street Map

baltic_ne

(below) Cyprus in Natural Earth Vector:
Including the northern area and the two British bases.
View same area in Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, or Open Street Map

cyprus_ne

(below) Virgin Islands (U.S. and British) in Natural Earth Vector:
View same area in Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, or Open Street Map

virginislands_ne

(below) French Polynesia in Natural Earth Vector (note both reefs and islands):
View same area in Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, or Open Street Map

frenchpoly_ne

(below) Pacific Island Groupings (we have the actual political boundaries, too) in Natural Earth Vector:
View same area in Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, or Open Street Map

southpacislandgroupings_ne

(below) South China Sea in Natural Earth Vector (note Paracel and Spratly Islands):
View same area in Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, or Open Street Map

southchinasea_ne

(below) Kashmir in Natural Earth Vector (claims of India, Pakistan, and China):
View same area in Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, or Open Street Map

kashmir_ne

(below) Horn of Africa in Natural Earth Vector (Somaliland and Elemi Triangle):
View same area in Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, or Open Street Map

somaliland_ne

(below) Tokyo, Japan – Urban area polygons in Natural Earth Vector:
View same area in Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, or Open Street Map

japanurban

(below) Brazil 1st order admin (states, provs)  in Natural Earth Vector:
View same area in Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, or Open Street Map

brazilprov_ne

(below) Rocks off Brazil (recent airplane crash) in Natural Earth Vector:
View same area in Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, or Open Street Map

brazilrocks_ne

Please stay tuned :)

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8 Responses to “First Look at Natural Earth Vector”

  1. This is incredibly exciting! Can I ask what the license on the data will be? Public domain, as with the existing NE data?

  2. nathaniel says:

    @ Mike: Yes, the new Natural Earth vector + raster datasets will be in the public domain. Still working out the details, but it’ll def. be free to use and adapt.

  3. [...] shipped off the 1:15,000,000 scale first-order administrative units for Natural Earth Vector to University of Wisconsin @ Madison to be attributed with country and province names and [...]

  4. [...] Nathaniel V. Kelso to create a vector product that also will be released into the public domain: Natural Earth Vector. Nathaniel has invited me to participate in this as well, and to be honest I think it’s a [...]

  5. A big thanks to you and Tom for taking this on – N.E. is a much valued product and this will just be the tops. This is an incredibly important project, the significance of which is not to be understated. I have too much experience :( processing data sets for world continents, countries, subdivisions for data sets I once assumed existed and would be easy to acquire in the public domain. I’ll be contacting you to volunteer.

  6. Stefan Tock says:

    This looks absolutely fantastic and I’ve been looking forward to it for ages!
    Just wondering when it will be available?

  7. domains says:

    have too much experience =( processing data sets for world continents, countries, subdivisions for data sets I once assumed existed and would be easy to acquire in the public domain.

  8. [...] noted in a description of the project, “this dataset will allow you to make beautiful and authoritative political and physical world [...]