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Finding Geospatial Data

Geospatial Data Files and Formats

Many vector and raster data formats have been developed for storing geospatial data. With Mapping Toolbox™ you can read geodata files in general purpose formats (e.g., ESRI® shapefile, GeoTIFF, and SDTS DEM) that a variety of mapping and image processing applications also read and write. You can also read files that are in a variety of special formats designed to exchange specific sets or kinds of geodata (e.g., GSHHS, VMAP0, DEM, and DTED files). You can order, and in many cases, download such data over the Internet.

Mapping Toolbox provides generalized sample data in the form of data files for the entire Earth and its major regions, as well as some higher resolution files covering small areas. These data sets are frequently used in the code examples provided in the Mapping Toolbox documentation. You can find them in matlabroot/toolbox/map/mapdata. You can list them, along with their metadata and the examples that use them, by typing the following at the command line:

ls(fullfile(matlabroot, 'toolbox', 'map', 'mapdata'))

In addition, the worlddatamap function, available on MATLAB Central, allows you to use worldmap to map a region using data from a shapefile or data grid. Examples of worlddatamap and world vector data in shapefile format are available under the heading worlddatamap Examples.

The following two tables describe a small but useful subset of geodata resources on the Internet, providing URLs from which you can obtain documentation, metadata, and the data sets themselves. The first table describes vector data sets and data products, and the next one describes raster data sets and products. Click any numbered footnote in the right column to access data sets and associated documentation on the Web. The tables also include a list of Mapping Toolbox functions that read specific kinds of data.

    Note:   MathWorks® does not warrant the accuracy, timeliness, or fitness for use of any data set listed in the following tables, and makes no endorsement of any data vendor mentioned. Web addresses (URLs) for data can disappear or change, making some of the links unusable. However, if your documentation location preference is set to viewing help that is locally installed, you should also consult Finding Geospatial Data on the MathWorks Web site for possible updates and corrections.

Finding Vector Geodata

Some commonly used vector (point, line, or polygon) geospatial data sets available over the Internet are described next.

    Note:   If you are using a Macintosh, open the Mapping Toolbox documentation in a separate Web browser to make sure that the links in this table work correctly. Search for "Finding Vector Geodata."

Vector Data Set or Data Product Data Provider Import Functions Internet URLs for Documentation and Data (HTTP or FTP)

Canadian provincial and Mexican state boundaries in zipped shapefile format

NOAA

shapeinfo
shaperead

Documentation link: [1]
Canada data link: [2]
Mexico data link: [3]

ESRI shapefiles

ESRI and many other sources

shapeinfo
shaperead

Documentation link: [1]
For data links, see entries for TIGER, U.S. National Atlas, and U.S. coastlines.

Global Self-Consistent Hierarchical High-Resolution Shoreline (GSHHS)

NOAA/
NGDC

gshhs

Doc and data link: [1]
Data (older versions): [2]

TIGER/Line® files

U.S. Census Bureau

shapeinfo
shaperead

Documentation and data link: [1]
Data (for 2000, in shapefile format): [2]

TIGER cartographic boundary files

U.S. Census Bureau

shapeinfo
shaperead

Documentation link: [1]
Data: [2]
This site contains downloadable boundary files for census geographies in ESRI Ungenerate, E00, and shapefile formats. Use shapefile format when importing to Mapping Toolbox.

U.S coastlines, historical data

NOAA

shapeinfo
shaperead

Documentation, metadata, and data in shapefile format: [1]

U.S. National Atlas

USGS

shapeinfo
shaperead

Documentation link: [1]
Data link: [2]
Some files are attributes only (DBF); geodata is also provided in SDTS format.

Vector Smart Map Level 0 (VMap0)

NGA

vmap0data
vmap0read
vmap0rhead
vmap0ui

Documentation links: [1]; [2]; [3]
Data (on CD-ROM): [4]
Web download: [5] (Note instructions on WinZip settings.)

World coastlines from various sources

NGDC/
USGS

load

Data link: [1]

Abbreviations for data providing organizations used in the preceding table:

  • ESRI (Environmental Sciences Research Institute)

  • NGA (National Geospatial Intelligence Agency)

  • NGDC (National Geophysical Data Center)

  • NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology)

  • NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

  • USGS (U.S. Geological Survey)

Finding Raster Geodata

Raster Geospatial Data Files

Some commonly used raster (gridded) geospatial data sets available over the Internet are described next.

    Note:   If you are using a Macintosh, open the Mapping Toolbox documentation in a separate Web browser to make sure that the links in this table work correctly. Search for "Finding Raster Geodata."

Raster Data Set or Data Product Data Provider Import Functions Internet URLs for Documentation and Data (HTTP or FTP)

Digital Elevation Models (DEM) in original format

USGS

demdataui
usgsdem
usgsdems
usgs24kdem

Documentation link: [1]
Documentation and data links: [2]

Digital Elevation Models in SDTS format

USGS

sdtsinfo
sdtsdemread

Documentation links: [1]; [2]; [3]; [4]
Data link: [5]

Digital Terrain Elevation Data (DTED)

NGA

dted
dteds

Documentation link: [1]
Data link: [2]

Earth Topography, 5-Minute (ETOPO5)

NOAA /
NGDC

etopo

Documentation link: [1]
Data link (binary): [2]

Earth Topography, 2-Minute (ETOPO2-2001)

NOAA/
NGDC

etopo

Documentation link: [1]
Data link (binary): [2]
This data set was corrected and updated in 2006. Please use the newer version.

Earth Topography, 1-Minute (ETOPO1c)

NOAA/
NGDC

etopo

Documentation link: [1]
Data link: [2]
This most recent version of the ETOPO data set has data with cell-centered registration. Both bedrock and ice surface files are supported.

Geographically referenced TIFF images (GeoTIFF)

Various

geotiffinfo
geotiffread
worldfileread

Documentation link: [1]
USGS Digital Raster Graphics Data (scanned topo sheets): [2]

Global Land Cover Characteristics (GLCC)

USGS

avhrrgoode
avhrrlambert

Documentation link: [1]
Data link: [2]

Global Land 1-km Base Elevation (GLOBE)

NOAA /
NGDC

globedem
globedems

Documentation and data link: [1]
Data link: [2]

30-arc-sec (1 km) Global Elevation data (GTOPO30)

USGS

gtopo30
gtopo30s

Documentation and data link: [1]

Global 2-minute (4 km) satellite topography and bathymetry data

Scripps

satbath

Documentation links: [1]; [2]
Data links: [3]; [4]
Download the latest data file topo_8.2.img; if using a MATLAB® release prior to version R2007a, rename the data file to 'topo_6.2.img'.

TerrainBase topography & bathymetry binary and ASCII grid files

NOAA / NGDC

tbase

Documentation link: [1]

Data: [1]

U.S. coastal nautical chart images

NOAA / NOS

geotiffinfo
geotiffread

Data: [1]

U.S. National Elevation Dataset (NED)

USGS

geotiffinfo
geotiffread

Documentation link: [1]
Data: [2]

WGS84 EGM96 Geoid Model

NASA, NGA

egm96geoid

Documentation and data links: [1]

Abbreviations for data providing organizations used in the preceding table:

  • ESA (European Space Agency)

  • NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)

  • NGA (National Geospatial Intelligence Agency)

  • NGDC (National Geophysical Data Center)

  • NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

  • NOS (National Ocean Service)

  • USGS (U.S. Geological Survey)

Web Map Service Maps

Mapping Toolbox functions and classes facilitate interaction with Web Map Service (WMS) servers. WMS servers follow a standard developed by the Open Geospatial Consortium, Inc. (OGC) and provide access to a wealth of geospatial information. With the new features you can search a built-in database of prequalified WMS servers and layers; retrieve customized geographic data sets and related metadata; and control the style, extent, and other characteristics of rendered maps. Some examples of available WMS servers and layers include the following:

  • European Space Agency, ERDAS Apollo Server: A variety of layers for the European community

  • NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Daily Planet Layer: Continuously updating Moderate Resolution Image Spectroradiometer (MODIS) scenes

  • Unidata, Thematic Realtime Environmental Distributed Data Services (THREDDS) Server: A variety of environmental layers

  • USGS National Map Seamless Server, National Elevation Dataset Layer: Raster elevation data for the U.S.

See the wmsfind reference page or the Searching the WMS Database section for more information.

Additional Data Resources

    Note:   If you are using a Macintosh, open the Mapping Toolbox documentation in a separate Web browser to make sure that the links in this table work correctly. Search for "Additional Data Resources."

Web SiteDescription

EarthExplorer

Download or preview and order land-related products, such as satellite images, aerial photographs, and digital cartographic data from the U.S. Geological Survey.

Geo.Data.gov

Access U.S. maps and data through the U.S. Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) portal. Retrieve metadata records, connect to live maps, download data sets, create your own maps, or publish data.

GIS Around the World

Link to GIS Web pages for the 50 states, as well as other more general sites listing GIS resources. Examples include the GIS Data Depot, which provides free, worldwide GIS data and Pelagic GIS Group, which shares the New England Aquarium's marine GIS research projects.

Global Change Master Directory

Access NASA's Earth science data sets, including topics such as agriculture, atmosphere, climate indicators, and land surface.

Seamless Data Distribution System (SDDS)

Download or order orthoimagery, elevation, or land cover data from the USGS's National Elevation Dataset for a specific geographic area.

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