Posts Tagged ‘natural earth’

On Guam, planned Marine base raises anger, infrastructure concerns (Wash Post)

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010


[Editor's note: Map shows location of Guam in the Pacific Ocean on a globe, by one of my colleagues at The Washington Post. Guam is it's own "country" but under United States sovereignty. Things can get complicated, as the story explains.]

Republished from The Washington Post.
By Blaine Harden. Monday, March 22, 2010

HAGATNA, GUAM — This remote Pacific island is home to U.S. citizens who are fervent supporters of the military, as measured by their record of fighting and dying in America’s recent wars.

But they are angry about a major military buildup here, which the government of Guam and many residents say is being grossly underfunded. They fear that the construction of a new Marine Corps base will overwhelm the island’s already inadequate water and sewage systems, as well as its port, power grid, hospital, highways and social services.

“Our nation knows how to find us when it comes to war and fighting for war,” said Michael W. Cruz, lieutenant governor of Guam and an Army National Guard colonel who recently returned from a four-month tour as a surgeon in Afghanistan. “But when it comes to war preparations — which is what the military buildup essentially is — nobody seems to know where Guam is.”

Continue reading at The Washington Post . . .

China’s territorial claims (Economist)

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

[Editor’s note: Animated and narrated map provides good summary the China’s boundary disputes with it’s neighbors. Check out Natural Earth, free GIS world map data where you will find all the mentioned areas.]

Republished from the Economist.

Suspicions between China and its neighbours bedevil its boundaries to the east, south and west.

Watch video China’s territorial claims »


Added Twitter feed, Natural Earth promo to blog

Monday, March 15th, 2010

My live twitter feed has been added in the top right column. I’ll experiment with publishing a daily digest as a regular blog post, will revise based on feedback.

I’ve also added a Natural Earth download promo in the site header. Natural Earth is a public domain map dataset available at 1:10m, 1:50m, and 1:110m scales. Featuring tightly integrated vector and raster data, with Natural Earth you can make a variety of visually pleasing, well-crafted maps with cartography or GIS software. I hope this gives the dataset more exposure, especially with sideways traffic. Please share the site with your social networks :)

Conflict conservation: Biodiversity down the barrel of a gun (Economist)

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

[Editor’s note: Featuring the DMZ on the Korean peninsula and Chagos Islands (Diego Garcia) of the Indian Ocean. Both of these features can be found in Natural Earth, the free GIS map of the world.]

Republished from the Economist. Feb 8th 2010

THERE was a time when conservation meant keeping people away from nature. America’s system of national parks, a model for similar set-ups around the world, was based on the idea of limiting human presence to passing visits, rather than permanent habitation.

In recent years this way of doing things has come under suspicion. To fence off large areas of parkland is often impractical and can also be immoral—in that it leads to local people being booted out. These days, the consensus among conservationists is to try to manage nature with humans in situ. But there are still “involuntary parks”, to borrow a phrase from the writer and futurist Bruce Sterling, that serve to illustrate just how spectacularly well nature can do when humans are removed from the equation.

Some such “parks” are accidents of settlement, or its absence. Nature is preserved in those rare places that people just have not got round to overrunning—for example the Foja Mountains in western New Guinea, an area of rainforest that teems with an astonishingly rich variety of plants and animals. Others are accidents of conflict: places from which people have fled and where the fauna and flora have thrived as a result.

Continue reading at the Economist . . .

Natural Earth version 1.1 download + release notes. Free, great world GIS map data:

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

[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.]

Continue reading and download the data at . . .

Posts for the week of March 1st

Monday, March 1st, 2010

No posts this week. I’m out and about speaking in Reno Wednesday, in SF rest of week.

However, for your viewing pleasure, Natural Earth 1.1 will be released tomorrow. Check back in this space.

The MODIS 500-m map of global land cover and urban extent (UW-Madison)

Friday, February 26th, 2010


[Editor’s note: With over half of humanity now living in an urban environment, this exciting new remote sensing dataset can help planners better estimate global urban sprawl. I hope to use this as a foundation to refine  Natural Earth’s urban polygons and mash them up against features. Thanks Annemarrie!]

Republished from UW-Madison.
Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment, University of Wisconsin-Madison

The MODIS 500-m global map of urban extent was produced by Annemarie Schneider at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in partnership with Mark Friedl at Boston University and the MODIS Land Group. The goal of this project was generate a current, consistent, and seamless circa 2001-2002 map of urban, built-up and settled areas for the Earth’s land surface. This work builds on previous mapping efforts using Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) data at 1-km spatial resolution (Schneider et al., 2003; 2005), which was included as part of the MODIS Collection 4 (C4) Global Land Cover Product (Friedl et al., 2002). Here we addressed weaknesses in the first map as well as several limitations of contemporary global urban maps by developing a methodology that relies solely on newly released Collection 5 (C5) MODIS 500-m resolution data. Specifically, a supervised decision tree classification algorithm was used to map urban areas using region-specific parameters (see Schneider et al., 2009; 2010 for full details on methodology).

The intended audience for the MODIS 500-m map of urban extent is primarily the academic research community working at regional to global scales on questions related to the geophysical environment; please keep this in mind as you put the data to use.

More about the data »
Download the data »
Note: Email registration required

b. Land cover classes

In the global land cover map, the classes are defined according to the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) 17-class scheme shown in Table 1.


Class name



Evergreen Needleleaf Forest

Lands dominated by woody vegetation with a percent cover > 60% and height exceeding 2 meters.  Almost all trees remain green all year. Canopy is never without green foliage.


Evergreen Broadleaf Forest

Lands dominated by woody vegetation with a percent cover > 60% and height exceeding 2 meters.  Almost all trees remain green year round. Canopy is never without green foliage.


Deciduous Needleleaf Forest

Lands dominated by woody vegetation with a percent cover > 60% and height exceeding 2 meters. Trees shed their leaves during the dry season; e.g. Siberian Larix.


Deciduous Broadleaf Forest

Lands dominated by woody vegetation with a percent cover > 60% and height exceeding 2 meters. Consists of broadleaf trees with an annual cycle of leaf-on and leaf-off periods.


Mixed Forests

Lands dominated by woody vegetation with a percent cover > 60% and height exceeding 2 meters. Consists of mixtures of either broadleaf or needleleaf trees and in which neither component exceeds 60% of landscape.


Closed Shrublands

Lands with woody vegetation with a height less than 2 meters. The total percent cover, including the herbaceous understory, exceeds 60%. The shrub foliage can be either evergreen or deciduous.


Open Shrublands

Lands with woody vegetation with a height less than 2 meters, and sparse herbaceous understory. Total percent cover is less than 60%. The shrub foliage can be either evergreen or deciduous.


Woody Savannas

Lands with and herbaceous understory, typically graminoids, and with tree and shrub cover between 30-60%. The tree and shrub cover height exceeds 2 meters.



Lands with an herbaceous understory, typically graminoids, and with tree and shrub cover between 10-30%. The tree and shrub cover height exceeds 2 meters.



Lands with herbaceous types of cover, typically graminoids. Tree and shrub cover is less than 10%.


Permanent Wetlands

Lands with a permanent mosaic of water and herbaceous or woody vegetation. The vegetation can be present in either salt, brackish, or fresh water. Only wetlands covering extensive areas (i.e., more than 500 km2) will be mapped (e.g., Sud, Okavanga, Everglades).



Lands where crops comprise > 60% of the total land cover.


Urban Areas

See (a) above.


Cropland – Natural Vegetation Mosaic

Lands with mosaics of crops and other land cover types in which no component comprises more than 60% of the landscape.


Snow and Ice

Lands under snow/ice cover for most of the year.


Barren or Sparsely Vegetated

Lands with exposed soil, sand or rocks and has less than 10% vegetated cover during any time of the year.


Water Bodies

Oceans, seas, lakes, reservoirs, and rivers. Can be either fresh or salt water bodies.  Coded as 0 in the MODIS-based maps.

A tutorial for creating good layer packages (ESRI)

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

[Editor's note: The 9.3.1 release of ArcGIS adds the ability to embed GIS data in layer packages for easy sharing. This blog post from ESRI steps thru how to create and leverage layer packages. Natural Earth will soon be available as a layer package!]

Republished from ESRI ArcExplorer blog.

With the release of ArcGIS Desktop 9.3.1 the ability to create layer packages was introduced. Layer packages encapsulate the data, cartography, and other properties of the layer as it’s authored in ArcMap (or ArcGlobe) into one easily shareable package.

Layer packages can be shared with other ArcGIS Desktop users, shared on ArcGIS Online (public beta soon), and are also supported in ArcGIS Explorer 900 along with layer files. What’s significant for Explorer users is that now the cartographic capabilities of ArcGIS Desktop can be seen using Explorer. In the past only simple rendering options were available in Explorer for local data sources, now these are expanded to include ArcGIS Desktop cartography via layer files and layer packages.

ArcGIS 9.3.1 was released not long ago, and ArcGIS Explorer 900 is currently in Beta. But since you may want to begin to create layer packages now for use in Explorer 900 when it becomes available we thought we’d cover a few basic pointers on how to create good layer packages.

We began by downloading some data and an ArcMap document (.mxd file) from the USGS. The data we downloaded was from an open file report with data from the Engineering aspects of karst map.

We downloaded the data, started ArcMap, opened the provided map document, and this is where we started. Our goal for this post was to take the karst_polys_polygon layer in the map and share it as a layer package with ArcGIS Explorer 900 users.

You can see the data (from a personal geodatabase) is already symbolized so we have a good start. But there’s a few things we want to do during the process of authoring the layer package that will ensure those we share the layer package with have the best possible experience and that we present the data in the best possible way. We think authoring is a good way to think about this process, and we’ll step you through the basics of what to consider.

Continue reading at ESRI ArcGIS Explorer Blog . . .

Cambodia rebukes Google over disputed Thai border map (AFP)

Monday, February 8th, 2010

View Larger Map

[Editor’s note: The dispute with Thailand over the Preah Vihear temple (and access) gets taken to another level. Lucky for me, doesn’t register as a pixel in Natural Earth due to the scale. Thanks Craig!]

Republished from AFP.

PHNOM PENH — Cambodia has accused Internet giant Google of being “professionally irresponsible” over its map of an ancient temple at the centre of a border dispute with Thailand, a letter seen by AFP Saturday showed.

The Google map “places almost half of the Khmer (Preah Vihear) temple in Thailand and is not an internationally recognised map,” said the letter written by the secretary of state of the Cambodian Council of Ministers, Svay Sitha.

He described the map as “radically misleading”.

“We, therefore, request that you withdraw the already disseminated, very wrong and not internationally recognised map and replace it,” Svay Sitha wrote.

The complaint was made as Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen was Saturday making his first visit to the 11th century Preah Vihear temple.

Cambodia and Thailand have been at loggerheads over their border for decades. Nationalist tensions spilled over into violence in July 2008, when the Preah Vihear temple was granted UNESCO World Heritage status.

Continue reading at AFP . . .

Adding new rivers and lakes to 10m Natural Earth in North America

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

Tom and I have been busy adding 4 times the rivers and 3 times the lakes we had for North America. This adds in many “missing” hydro features that one might normally find on a 1:10,000,000 hydrologic reference map.

Why were they missing from the first version of Natural Earth? It’s hard to wade thru 1:1,000,000 features to figure which to add and an even tougher job to attribute them with the correct name and scale ranks. There’s another factor: these extra features are great if you’re making a watershed map, but can be a little noisy when used as a background layer in say a political reference map.

Cody Rice, now of the EPA but formerly of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) send along an amazing link last week. The CEC is a joint agency between the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Specifically: USGS, Natural Resources Canada, INEGI-Mexico. Each country contributed base data for a 1:10,000,000 digital atlas. The data is available in many popular formats and is in the public domain. Better yet, it includes GIS data attributes like river name!

We’ve compared with our existing Natural Earth linework and identified which features were missing. For those we’re adding, we’ve adjusted the new linework a nudge here and there so it lines up with SRTM relief and our existing linework. We’ve also gone thru and created lake centerlines and applied scale ranks to all in three new steps (10, 11, and 12). We have some final polishing but will be releasing, along with some slight adjustments to the original data, by the end of January.

Do you have time to donate? Unlike ranks 0 to 9 (the original data), this new data will NOT come tapered. We’d like it to be and can show you how.

Know of a similar, attributed with name, 1:10,000,000 regional dataset we could adapt into Natural Earth to build out our coverage? Please let me know at

Preview images below:

Red = new at rank 10. Blue = new at rank 11. Black = new at rank 12. Grey = old at ranks 0 to 9.

Click images to view larger sizes.