Posts Tagged ‘patterson’

Natural Earth Released, Let the Downloads Begin!

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

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 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.

Data development

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.

Future activity

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

Tom Patterson

Gene Therapy for Color Blindness (Cal Academy of Sciences)

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

[Editor's note: Color blindness affects a significant portion of the male population and impacts design decisions. Bernhard Jenny and I developed the Color Oracle software for Mac, Windows, and Linux to help designers muddle thru. Now gene therapy may offer a "cure" for the condition, as this video from the California Academy of Sciences explains. Thanks Tom!]

Republished from the Science in Action from the California Academy of Sciences.

Gene therapy has proven to cure color blindness in squirrel monkeys— can the same process work for humans?

We’ve been tracking a lot of vision stories lately… What have you found?

Continue reading text version at TG Daily . . .

Water Measured From the Sky: Satellites Track Land’s Consumption (Wash Post)

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

Republished from The Washington Post.

In Idaho, scientists are using remote imaging to study evapotranspiration, the loss of water to the atmosphere by evaporation from soil and water, and by transpiration from plants.

Water management is serious business in the American West, where precipitation is scarce, irrigated agriculture is a major industry, new housing subdivisions spread across arid landscapes and water rights are allocated in a complicated seniority system.

Related story from The Washington Post »


Scree Painter (Bernhard Jenny, ETHZ)

Monday, July 20th, 2009


[Editor's note: Bernhard Jenny, of the Swiss ETH in Zurich, has released a new software application for generating Swiss-style scree (rock) patterns for topographic maps. It fills user-specified polygons with scree stones. In years past, this technique was a very slow, time consuming manual process. Because of this, most modern maps have abandoned scree depiction or rely on out-of-date raster scans of old maps. This new stand-alone software for Mac, Windows, and Linux allows many GIS inputs like DEMs (DTMs) and settings customize the graphic treatment of dot size, density, and shape. Scree is useful for depicting mountainous areas, often rocky and devoid of vegetation. The rock pattern can indicate gullies and compliment relief shading for sunny and shadow areas by modulating the size and density of dots. Export is provided to PDF format. I hope we start seeing more scree on maps as a result of this software. Thanks Tom!]

Republished from

Inputs and settings include:

Scree: the generated scree dots.
Scree Polygons: the polygons that are filled with scree dots.
Gully Lines: flow lines extracted from a digital elevation model.
Obstacles Mask: No scree dots are placed where this mask is black.
Shaded Relief: Modulates the size and density of dots.
Gradation Mask: Where this mask is dark, the contrast between bright and dark slopes is enhanced.
Large Stones Maks: Dots are enlarged where this maks is dark.
Reference Image: An image that is not used for generating scree dots. The reference image included in the sample data sets shows a map section with manually produced scree dots for comparison.

Read more and download application at ScreePainter . . .

PREVIEW Natural Earth Vector: First Order Admin Units

Monday, July 13th, 2009

We 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 alpha-numeric codes last week. There are only 3,000+ of these around the world so this is no small task! Kudos go to Tom for doing the heavy lifting on this data theme. Props to Kevin and Ben @ UW-Madison for undertaking the attributing.

Some units are super tiny (see Slovenia in the Europe detail at bottom, almost equivalent in scale to municipalities in the USA). We ignore some small, mostly island nations (see the Caribbean image below) but will include a general admin_0 polygon for the entire country instead. First order administrative units are composed what most people call “provinces” and “states” (not to be confused with countries aka “states”). For some countries, we will also include 1st order admin “regions” that group smaller 1st order units into larger statistical areas (eg: the United Kingdom’s England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland).

If you have 10 to 20 hours to spare, we need your help to complete Natural Earth Vector. Please email me at to find out more.








Greenland Gains Self-Government from the Kingdom of Denmark, Kinda (Economist)

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

2609ww2[Editor's note: What is a country? A nation? A nation-state? By some counts, there are about 195 "countries" or 194 (US State Department) in the world, but by others like the ISO and United Nations, about 245 which includes extra "regions" for statistical reasons or FIPS code assignments. The World Bank (2) says 186 or 210. How can there be such a wide spectrum of valid answers? The issue is complicated by historic colonial relationships with overseas dependencies and affiliated political administrative units, and by the non-uniform way different "countries" sub-divide themselves.

For instance, France considers all it's "dependencies" unitary parts of France, while the U.S. does not view it's own territories equal to states vis-a-vis constitutional rights. But some unitary parts of France outside mainland Europe get treated differently from Metropolitan France by the European Union (they don't necessarily get an E.U. passport).

This week, Greenland steps closer to becoming one of the club of 195 "countries" in the world, but really it's just getting more quasi-self-government (sticking in the 245 bracket) within the Kingdom of Denmark's administrative umbrella (which is and is not the same as the "country" of Denmark) for defense and foreign policy.

The higher number doesn't even address sub-national semi-autonomous entities like the United Kingdom's England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland which fall somewhere between what we in the U.S. think of as "states" and "provinces" (1st order admin units) and those top level countries and nations. Nor does it address disputed or break away regions like Abkhazia.

For Natural Earth Vector, we will include groupings at both "top-level" views (about 195 and 245), and at the 1st order admin (state, province, over 3,000). We will also include a sample of sub-national areas and disputed, breakaway areas.]

Republished from the Economist.

Two tonnes of rare whale meat were distributed in Greenland as part of celebrations to mark the start of an era of self-government. After nearly three centuries of rule by Denmark, Greenland’s 56,000 people will gradually take control of most domestic affairs, although defence and foreign policy remain in Danish hands. Greenlandic is now the official language. Photo by: Adam Roberts.

Continue reading related story, “Greenland’s future: Divorce up north?” from Nov. 27, 2008 . . .

Placename conventions: Wales (Cymru) @ 2009 Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C.

Monday, June 29th, 2009

img_1008_2 img_1011_2 img_1012_2

[Editor's note: Visiting the Wales section of this year's Smithsonian Folklife Festival (continues thru July 5),  I am reminded of how each language has a different name for the same set of geographic features. This is mostly true on the world scale for countries, oceans, continents and so on. Sometimes it continues down to major cities within a certain country, especially with names like "New York". Each language has a "conventional" name for foreign placenames that may or may not bear an obvious resemblance to the name used by the local language used by those in that place. Some cities even have historic (no longer used) conventional names: Istanbul (not Constantanopal). Mumbai took a good 15 years to replace the US-English conventional for Bombay in India.

The technical terms for this, definitions courtesy Wikipedia, are Exonym (a name for a place that is not used within that place by the local inhabitants), endonym, autonym (the name used by the people or locals themselves). Exonyms may derive from distinct roots as in the case of Deutschland, Germany. They can also be cognates which sound similar (and are spelled similar, using the local script), and final they may be fully or partially translated from the native language (like New York and Neuvo York). Transliteration is the practice of converting a text from one writing system into another in a systematic way. Some places, like New Zealand, have multiple local language names for the same geographic features, further clouding the issue.

The US-English conventional romanized script for the country in Europe that borders France and Poland is "Germany" yet in Welsh it is "yr Almaen", which is similar to the usage in French and several other European languages. These types of naming styles are important when attributing a world base map (see Natural Earth Vector blog post). For an audience that is mono-lingual, it makes sense to use conventional names for foreign place names. But what happens for a product that enjoys multi-lingual users? On one hand we want to be "localized" to the appropriate name in each language, but we need to provide enough "conventional" placenames for the user to orient themselves, especially when the foreign names use a completely different writing script (not roman ABCs). Google Maps-US takes an hyprid approach where names in each country are labeled in the local script using the local name, with a few labels also in conventional US-English. When one searches for Tokyo, the map shows Japan in mostly Kanji script with some romanized, conventional US-English versions of those names.

For Natural Earth Vector, we follow a hybrid approach that will allow for localization into other languages besides the compilation language, US-English. Tom Patterson used the following guidelines for his original Physical Map fo the World project, which this project uses as it's primary source:

• Endonyms (Appennino) were favored over exonyms (Apennines) for place names based on Romance and Germanic languages, which are often cognates of familiar English names and easy to identify.
• For other languages, transliterated names of major features (mountain ranges, plateaus, deserts, etc.) received English place name descriptors. For example, Verkhoyansk Khrebet in Russia is labeled on the map as Verkhoyansk Range. Smaller physical features, such as mountains within ranges, have entirely local names.
• Transnational features named in more than one language, for example, the Donau/Duna/Danube River, received conventional English names.
• When two or more countries claim ownership of the same physical feature and use different names for it, the preference was for the country currently in possession of the feature regardless of the circumstances. For example, the southern Kuril Islands that Japan and Russia both claim, and which Russia has occupied since 1945, have Russian names.
• A few notable places have English translations in parentheses, for example, Rub al Khali (Empty Quarter).
• All river names dispense with the word "River" or the abbreviation "R."
• Island names within compact island groups drop the word "Island" or the abbreviation "I."
• Non-English place names have accents and diacritical marks. However, the font used on the map (Adobe Frutiger) lacked a few exotic accents for consonants, which consequently do not appear on the map.

And now for the Welsh Smithsonian Festival information:]


Republished from the Smithsonian.

Wales (Cymru in Welsh) is a dynamic and resilient nation. The industrious and resourceful nature of its people provides a firm platform from which to present its rich culture and heritage. Wales Smithsonian Cymru will celebrate language, literature, and the spoken word, present crafts and occupational skills, share music and cooking, and evoke the spirit that powered the industrial revolution and is now championing sustainable solutions. The program will explore how age-old knowledge, skills, and materials continue to be refashioned, recycled, and reinvented to meet modern demands and to continue to connect Wales to the world.

With much of its border being coastline, Wales’ maritime influences remain vital to the nation’s evolution. The mountain ranges and National Parks sustain the rural communities and outdoor life that are Wales’ touchstones. The essence and inspiration of the landscape will be shared by those who live off and nurture Wales’ beguiling natural environment. Cooking demonstrations will explore the qualities of fresh, local ingredients sourced from farmers markets and savored across the country, from seafood platters to hearty Welsh lamb dishes. Performances and workshops will illustrate the diversity of the Welsh music scene, from the ancient sounds of the crwth and pibgorn, to evocative vocal and harp renditions, and to lively folk bands playing a range of familiar and experimental repertoires. Craftspeople and building arts experts will share their experiences and skills working with native Welsh woods, slate, wool, metal, and stone.

Immigration and an international perspective have enriched Welsh culture for generations, while the strength of the Welsh language, which stems from the sixth century, continues to underpin the nation’s identity. Visitors will be able to practice Welsh phrases and learn about the history of the language. In addition to the Festival, Wales’ presence will be extended through ancillary programs that will begin in March 2009, presented in collaboration with partner organizations in Washington, D.C. These activities and events will include a wide range of contemporary arts and a focus on sustainable living and climate change.

Continue reading at the Smithsonian . . .

Ocean Dots: The Island Encyclopedia

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009


[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)] 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 site. If you’d like to upload images, visit the image upload page.

Continue exploring at OceanDots . . .

Cartographica 1.0 – “GIS” for the Mac

Thursday, May 14th, 2009


[Editor's note: At $500 a seat ($395 limited time offer) this Macintosh-compatible GIS solution is cheaper than Avenza's MaPublisher but lacks some advanced features like customizable projections. Requires 10.5.3.  They have a survey asking which new features they should add. Thanks Tom!]

Republished from (ClueTrust).

Flexible File Import

File Import

Cartographica has a wide range of data import capabilities, nearly assuring that you can turn your data into maps. Bring in your georeferenced raster data (like orthophotos and satellite imagery), your vector data from almost any source, or even CSV text files. A more complete list of imported and exported formats is available.

Rapid Filtering
Rapid Filtering

This is a Macintosh, and you’d expect fast filtering of data. With Cartographica, you get just what you’d expect. Using the search box, you can filter on any field. If you like, you can use expressions like > and < to filter numeric data arithmetically.

Sophisticated Layout
Sophisticated Layout
Cartographica now provides sophisticated print layouts, including the ability to put multiple maps on the same page, overlay scale and legends, or keep them aside, and add text notations. Even have multiple copies of the same map on a page with different zoom levels and extents.
Flexible Styles
Flexible Styles
Styles define what layers should look like in a map. Easily put together a simple style based on fill and stroke colors, or create a sophisticated style set for a layer allowing easy identification of features with different attributes.
Direct Editing
Direct Editing
Need to define geometry for your map without exact coordinates? Cartographica lets you create a new feature, or edit an existing one with ease. Just double-click and move the control points. Styles and related information follow right along.
Undo Support
Undo Support
We believe that exploring geospatial data should be risk-free. Why should you have to live with every change you make? Cartographica’s ubiquitous undo capabilities means whatever changes you’ve just made… you can undo them… and then put them back.
Layer Transparency
Layer Transparency
Take advantage of the sophisticated graphics you love on the Macintosh by using transparency to see through one level of data to the next. It is, of course, adjustable on a per-layer (or per-feature basis when you are using complex styles). You can even make a raster layer transparent (or any part of it), in order to enhance visibility of your crucial data.
Simultaneous Data/Map Browsing
Map And Data
Look at your data and map at the same time. Zoom in and filter the map and the data view follows. Scroll around and select features in the data set and they are hilighted on the map. Visualize your data your way. Don’t want to give up screen space for the data view? That’s fine, just drag it shut, and then open it when you need it again.

Got addresses? Load up a reference file (such as those available free in the US from the US Census Bureau) and you’ll be mapping the addresses of your data in minutes. Cartographica will take addresses from lists in text files, tables in databases, or even your Macintosh Address Book.

GPS Support
GPS Support
If you need to load up field data from a variety of GPS devices, go no further than the File menu. Using the GPS import modules tested over the last three years in our free LoadMyTracks software, we can import waypoints, routes, and tracks directly from hundreds of devices, including those from: Garmin®, Magellan®, Lowrance®, Sony®, and others. And, if your device isn’t directly supported, it can import the data using GPX files (the standard for GPS information).
Direct Database Access
Direct Database Access
Is your source data stored in a database? Cartographica can load data directly using ODBC (the standard for database exchange) and geocode it, join it to existing table data based on keys, or just import it as points with X and Y or latitude and longitude. No more multi-step processes and complex multi-program importing.
Web Map Server Support
Web Map Server
There’s lots of good data available on the Internet. Getting data from a Web Map Server into your map document is a snap. Just load up the area you’re looking to cover and select the Map Server. Cartographica will do the rest, from matching the coordinate system to testing the boundaries, to warping the graphics if necessary to meet your current CRS.
Intelligent Projection Management
Intelligent Projection Management
There’s a lot of data available out there, but often each layer is coded with a coordinate reference system that is specific to its producer’s own needs. Cartographica understands that, but doesn’t let that get in the way of making the data easy to use. Although you can change coordinate systems in existing layers, we’ll be just as happy to do the conversions behind the scenes (for raster as well as vector data) in order to make sure your layers match up.

 Read more at . . .

The Importance of Building Geospatial Infrastructures (ESRI)

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

[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.]

Republished from ESRI’s ArcUser.
March 2009 article also available in PDF format.

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.

click to enlarge
The Solar Boston Web site uses geospatial data and high-performance, application-focused Web mapping to encourage the adoption of solar energy in the city of Boston, Massachusetts. Visitors can use tools at the site to calculate the solar potential of building rooftops and the annual cost savings that could be realized from installing solar panels.

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.

With new tools in ArcGIS, such as the regression analysis tools, vast data inventories can be placed in a geographic context and analyzed. This scatterplot matrix diagram is used for exploring data on foreclosures to discover if there is any relationship between variables preparatory to effectively modeling it.

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:

A Geospatial Foundation: Public, private, and military applications flow from SDI