[Editor's note: I'm pleased to announce the immediate availability of version 1.1 of Natural Earth! Three months after our initial launch, the project reaches a major milestone. The download manager will be updated the next couple weeks. In the meantime, please check out the ZIP and release notes below.]
Posts Tagged ‘furno’
Dick Furno and I have been busy revising and expanding the populated places included with Natural Earth, released in December. We’re adding around 1,000 places to get to ~7,300 total towns and settlements around the world. We include more admin-1 capitals and make a first stab at linking to GeoNames via their unique IDs. Dick has gone over the towns and created a new 30m scale rank that helps cut the 20m clutter in half. We hope to have the update pushed out by the end of January.
Here’s a preview: Click images to see larger version
(red = added general place, black = added admin-1 place at less than 10m scale rank, grey = existing places)
Scale rank changed
(red = change, grey = no change to existing or added at less than 10m scale rank)
Changed the name, location, feature class, population, or other property
(blue = changes to existing features, grey = existing or added)
Places with GeoName ID linkages
(green = with ID, grey = lacks ID for mostly small population settlements)
Tom and I are pleased to announce the immediate availability of Natural Earth, free vector and raster map data at 1:10m, 1:50m, and 1:110m scales. This is a NACIS and MapGiving co-branded product with assistance from the University of Wisconsin-Madison cartography lab, Florida State University, and others.
Do you have a new theme to contribute to Natural Earth? Great! Please follow these data creation guidelines so it fits in with the rest of the project. Find an error? Log it via the Corrections system.
Why Create Natural Earth?
We have two goals:
First, to give cartographers an off-the shelf solution for creating small-scale world, regional, and country maps. To this end, Natural Earth Vector includes both cultural and physical features and builds on Tom Patterson’s Natural Earth raster data, first introduced in 2005.
Second, we include many features missing from people’s mental map of the world in the hope of improving overall geographic literacy.
Natural Earth Vector solves a problem that many NACIS members face: finding vector data for making publishable-quality small-scale maps. In a time when the web is awash in interactive maps and free, downloadable vector data, such as Digital Chart of the World and VMAP, mapmakers are forced to spend time sifting through a confusing tangle of poorly attributed data. Many cartographers working under tight project deadlines must use manually digitalized bases instead.
Small-scale map datasets of the world do exist, but they have their problems.
For example, most are crudely generalized—Chile’s fjords are a noisy mess, the Svalbard archipelago is a coalesced blob, and Hawaii has disappeared into the Pacific two million years ahead of schedule. They contain few data layers, usually only a coast and country polygons, which may not be in register with each other or modern satellite imagery. The lack of good small-scale map data is not surprising. Large mapping organizations that release public domain data, such as the US Geological Survey, are not mandated to create small-scale map data for a small user community that includes mapmaking shops, publishers, web mappers, academics, and students—in other words, typical NACIS members. Natural Earth Vector fills this oft-overlooked but important niche.
Making Natural Earth Vector is a collaboration involving many volunteer NACIS members. Nathaniel Vaughn Kelso and Tom Patterson began working on the project in late 2008. Following the path of least resistance, the idea was to repurpose existing data that we already had as an integrated world dataset at three map scales.
The 1:50 million and 1:110 million-scale data comes from bases developed by Dick Furno and additional staff at the Washington Post for quick turnaround newspaper mapping— the Washington Post Legal Department kindly granted us permission to use these data. The kernel for the 1:10 million data was a compilation by Patterson for the Physical Map of the World, consisting of coastlines, rivers, lakes, and physical feature labels. Expanding and improving on this foundation has been our chief activity.
The core team grew to include Tanya Buckingham, who coordinates data attributing by Ben Coakley, Kevin McGrath and Sarah Bennett at the University of Wisconsin Cartography Lab; Dick Furno as populated places guru; Nick Springer as the website developer; and Lou Cross as NACIS liaison.
A cast of consultants, many regulars on the Cartotalk.com discussion forum, assisted with place names for various world regions. They include Leo Dillon, Hans van der Maarel, Will Pringle, Craig Molyneaux, Melissa Katz-Moye, Laura McCormick, Scott Zillmer and fellow staff at XNR Mapping.
Data for cartography
We developed a world base map data suitable for making a variety of visually pleasing, well-crafted maps. Unlike other map data intended for scientific analysis or military mapping, Natural Earth Vector is designed to meet the needs of mainstream production cartographers. Maximum flexibility was a goal. For example, Natural Earth Vector comes in ESRI shapefile format, the Geographic projection, and WGS datum, which are de facto standards for vector geodata.
Neatness counts with Natural Earth Vector. The carefully generalized linework maintains consistent, recognizable geographic shapes at 1:10m, 1:50m, and 1:110m scales. As Natural Earth Vector was built from the ground up, you will find that all data layers align precisely with one another. For example, where rivers and country borders are one and the same, the lines are coincident.
Natural Earth Vector, however, is more than just a collection of pretty lines. What lies beneath the surface, the data attributes, is equally important for mapmaking. Most data contain embedded feature names, which are ranked by relative importance. Up to eight rankings per data theme allow easy custom map “mashups” to emphasize your map’s subject while de-emphasizing reference features.
Other attributes facilitate faster map production. For example, width attributes assigned to rivers allow you to create tapered drainages with ease. Assigning different colors to contiguous country polygons is another task made easier thanks to data attribution.
Other key features:
- Vector feature include name attributes and scale ranks – know the Rocky Mountains are larger than the Ozarks.
- Large polygons, such as bathymetric layers, are split for more efficient data handling.
- Projection friendly—vectors precisely match at 180 degrees longitude. Lines contain enough data points for smooth bending in conic projections, but not so many that processing speed suffers.
- Raster data includes grayscale-shaded relief and cross-blended hypsometric tints derived from the latest NASA SRTM Plus elevation data and tailored to register with Natural Earth Vector.
- Optimized for use in web mapping applications, such as Google, Yahoo, and OpenStreetMaps with built-in scale attributes to direct features to be shown at different tile zoom levels.
Since Natural Earth Vector is for visual mapmaking, we prepared the base layers in Adobe Illustrator in conjunction MAPublisher import and export filters. Illustrator offered us flexible tools for editing lines and polygons, organizing data on layers, and the ability to inspect the final data in a map-like form. A variety of third-party plug-in filters and scripts, some written by Kelso, were essential for linework generalization and other tasks.
World Data Bank 2 was the primary vector data source that required significant modifications. For example, we found that the entire west coast of the United States was about seven miles west of its true position and adjusted it accordingly. Slight adjustments to river positions better matched them to shaded relief derived from more satellite data. For Antarctica, we completely abandoned World Data Bank 2. Here, the coast, glaciers, and ice shelves derive from 2003-2004 NASA Mosaic of Antarctica, a MODIS product. We also updated the data to reflect recent ice shelf collapses.
Contributors from around the globe researched additional feature names beyond those original to Patterson’s Physical Map of the World. Attributing the data was performed in ArcGIS by the team at the University of Wisconsin and by Nathaniel Vaughn Kelso at The Washington Post.
We regard the initial release of Natural Earth Vector as a starter dataset that will see periodic updates. With any project as complex as this, flaws and omissions are bound to emerge, requiring our attention. One proposal is to form a Natural Earth map data committee that will incorporate information from users, perhaps using a Wiki model, for coordinating updates. Rivers, lakes, cities, and first order admin are components still in need of refinement. Possible data for future updates include transportation (roads and railroads), time zones, and terrestrial hypsography.
If you have ideas for Natural Earth or
want to show off how you’re using the data,
please drop us a line.
Nathaniel Vaughn Kelso
Announced at NACIS in Sacramento, California in October, we’re closing in on final release of Natural Earth vector and raster map data.
Bill Buckingham wrapped up processing the Natural Earth Vector cities (populated places point locations) this week. I’ve been honing our admin-1 and admin-1 rankings and feature names (only 4,000 states and provinces around the world, wew!).
Bill’s added population estimates for each city based on LandScan. The technique allows the user to know both the relative “regional” importance of a town, regardless of it’s population, based on which map scales the feature should be visible (thanks to Dick Furno) at AND to know how many people live there.
By taking a composite of both, you can still show small population cities that are regionally important at a small type point size along with larger populated places at the smaller map scales.
We have about 6,500 cities in Natural Earth Vector. Over 90% of those have population estimates (the ones that don’t are usually out in the boondocks). Together, our cities capture over 3 billion people or half of humanity.
For comparison, most other populated place GIS files have only 2,000 some cities and they focus on country and first order administrative capitals with a bare smattering of other towns. For instance: Lagos, Nigeria or San Francisco, California. This makes smaller countries with lots of administrative divisions (like Slovenia, Vietnam, or Jamaica) seems way more populated than larger countries with larger administrative divisions (like the United States). See the North America screenshot below for an example and look at the Caribbean versus United States.
They also don’t estimate populations, and if they do they use official census number that hide the true “metro”-style counting of people that should inform a thematic map regardless of formal administrative boundaries at the smaller map scales that Natural Earth excels at.
Now for some screenshots:
(Scale ranks, followed by population view color coded like the scale ranks with nodata green dots, then cyan dot version is ESRI cities overlayed)
More continents o’ dots after the jump.
We’re closing in on having the cities for Natural Earth Vector complete. The final compilation has been made (focusing on a universal coverage based on regional importance, even if the town has less than typical population). Dick Furno has headed up this data theme and is half way thru applying 8 scale ranks to the cities. Population estimates will be added in a final step by another contributor. Screenshots show quick plots of the GIS data. Color implies ranking.
Europe Biggest Cities (below):
Europe All Cities:
Beijing-Tokyo biggest cities (below):
This week marks the 40th anniversary of the first human landing on Earth’s Moon, over 250,000 miles distant from our “mother ship”. Apollo 11 was launched into space July 16, 1969 and on July 20th Neil Alden Armstrong and Edwin Eugene ‘Buzz’ Aldrin, Jr., became the first humans to “moon walk” while fellow crew member Michael Collins orbited above.
This past January I published several blog posts (listed below) highlighting my friend Richard Furno’s involvement with the National Geographic “The Earth’ Moon” map which was published during this amazing time in history. Follow along with Richard’s first hand narration of how historic events shaped the map, the cutting edge science involved in assembling the photographic base material, and the many explanatory notes included on the final design. The wall map is a piece of art, please enjoy
NASA and the President John F. Kennedy Library have a fun (historic) real time recreation / interactive of the four day mission.
[Editor’s note: I’ve enjoyed using this photo-based encyclopedia the last couple weeks working on the Natural Earth Vector island features, which includes many small specs of land out in the deep blue. Natural Earth Vector will be released at the 2009 NACIS map conference in Sacramento, Calif. Related posts: 1, 2, 3, and 4)]
oceandots.com is an image-based encyclopedia of the world’s islands and reefs, using a mix of satellite imagery and user-contributed images.
You can now upload you own island photographs to share with other visitors to the oceandots.com site. If you’d like to upload images, visit the image upload page.
[Editor’s note: Having a consistent set of quality geospatial databases enables cartographers and GIS professionals to focus on moving projects forward, avoiding costly database re-creation. Sharing the same base data across multiple projects and multiple organizations allows interoperability effeciencies and synergized results. Tom Patterson, Dick Furno, and I are working together to build a vector complement for Tom’s Natural Earth world raster landcover data at 1:15,000,000; 1:50m; and 1:110m scales. We hope these new shapefiles will play an important role in the community to create a small-scale (world, continental, and regional) geospatial infrastructure.]
Like no other time in recent history, our world is challenged. Disease, environmental deterioration, disasters, and now the widespread disruption of financial markets test the resourcefulness of society.
Over the past 40 years, GIS has evolved from a tool for managing projects to a framework for understanding and responding to problems on scales ranging from the local to the global. The geographic approach has become an important methodology for integrating data and information and enabling better decision making. The availability of quality geospatial data, together with improvements in software and hardware performance, has made these advances possible.
With the move to an object-oriented platform, ArcGIS is better able to abstract and model the world, representing and integrating information about complex systems and modeling their behaviors. This is true whether the subject under study is as broad as an ocean or limited to a neighborhood.
The development of spatial data infrastructures (SDIs) represents the next logical step in the expansion of GIS use for data management and decision support. SDIs use accepted data and metadata standards in the creation of well-documented foundation datasets. Used with constantly updated operational data, SDIs make data more accessible and useful for specific tasks and analyses and save time while sharing costs. SDIs, together with GIS software, unlock the information contained in the terabytes of measurements, images, transactions, and other data stored in digital form by placing it in a geographic context.
The phenomenal growth of the Internet has multiplied the value of SDIs by enhancing the dissemination of data and information products. The newest release of ESRI software, ArcGIS 9.3.1, is focused on making information more consumable using the Internet. It supplies tools for configuring and deploying responsive and informative Web maps that help users accomplish specific tasks.
In February 2009, the Statistical Office of the European Communities (Eurostat) awarded a contract for the development of the technical components of a Web-based GIS. The contract went to a consortium that based its solution on ESRI technology.
These components will comply with the provisions of the Infrastructure for Spatial Information in Europe (INSPIRE). In establishing INSPIRE, the European Commission recognized the importance of quality georeferenced information to the understanding of the complex interactions between human activities and environmental pressures and impacts.
Two articles in the Focus section of this issue of ArcUser magazine provide additional examples of the value of building geospatial infrastructures to address complex problems and provide tangible benefits.
Maintaining water quality is essential to the health of the environment. Although water quality monitoring has been ongoing for decades, this abundance of measurement data cannot be translated into effective regulation and remediation action if it is not accessible, placed in geographic context, and amenable to analysis.
The staff of Region 4 of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency developed a geodatabase that manages current and historical water quality data and allows for rapid and flexible inquiry, analysis, and dissemination of this data and the information derived from it. This geodatabase, loaded into an ArcSDE server, uses feature classes, reformatted tables, and relationship classes. Information can be viewed as layer files generated from query definitions or queried by feature. This information is available from the desktop or distributed as ArcReader projects.
The benefits accrued from a geospatial infrastructure are greatly multiplied at larger scales as demonstrated by the marine SDI developed by the Portuguese Instituto Hidrografico. The SDI created by this naval organization integrates an abundance of sea monitoring data, prediction data, navigation charts, and base data using international data format standards and data models. A fully stipulated data policy and metadata for all geospatial data ensure data quality and promote data reuse. A wide range of information products generated for public, private, and military use are widely disseminated through Web portals. In addition, the SDI provides ad hoc decision support for the navy.
As these articles show, GIS professionals will play a more important role than ever in helping understand complex systems. With the development of SDIs, GIS professionals will be better able to apply GIS to transform data into knowledge. Aided by increasingly powerful tools in GIS, they can gain a better understanding of the world’s complex systems and help develop a more sustainable future.
Related ESRI article:
I’m in search of a super generalized but comprehensive global coverage dataset or datasets that shows major highways and rail lines, even sea lanes. You can see an example of this on Plate 21 of the National Geographic 8th Edition Atlas of the World. Do you know of one? Please shoot me a note to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment here if you have a tip.
Why do I want such? I am working with Tom Patterson (of Natural Earth fame) and Dick Furno (retired from The Washington Post) to release a comprehensive, attributed GIS base map dataset derived in part from the Natural Earth physical wall map at around 1:15,000,000 scale and two other consistent and self referential datasets at approx. scales of 1:50m and 1:110m. These datasets will provide coverage that perfectly registers with the modern satellite remote sensing imagery and SRTM derived topography. Yes there is 1:1m coverage around the world but it is often out of date and too detailed for doing global, continental, and regional mapping.
We hope these open source datasets will allow everyone in the cartographic community to focus on telling the best “why” and “how” visual story about their thematic data instead of spending 50 to 70% of project time looking for or creating the vector geometry that captures the basic “where” of their thematic data.
Release is expected Fall 2009 at the NACIS map conference in Sacramento. Please check back in this space for more details as they develop.