Geographical data

Links: Maps, The first useful map, The polygon map

Most WantedEdit


  • Lists of world's biggest cities
    • -- en:User:JeLuF
      • Damn, this data is extremely buggy. Taw 22:58, 6 Sep 2003 (UTC)
    • all places with a population above 100 000, regional centres and the largest 20 places per country/territory -- JeLuF 22:02, 9 Sep 2003 (UTC)
      • OK, let's say the data's fine. Taw 22:26, 18 Sep 2003 (UTC)
      • I don't trust world-gazetteer's data. I've looked at my country's info on the site and there are a lot of errors. --Seav 06:33, 7 Nov 2003 (UTC)
      • In my case, cities are shifted to the left so they are "located" in the sea.

Already usedEdit


NASA has lot of nice public domain topological and bathymetric data. "Blue Marble" (lower res previews, raw data) has resolution of 43200x21600 and is really good-looking (except maybe on poles where it's deformed a lot, though transforming the image into a more appropriate projection than cylindrical should do well enough).

It has been downloaded and some script are ready to extract arbitrary fragments from it. 200 18°x18° PNGS forming the map take 800 MB, uncompressed (for processing) raw data takes 2.7GB.

There's more than one version of BlueMarble.

CIA World DataBank II and derivatesEdit

It has:

  • coastline data (decent)
  • rivers (with gaps)
  • borders of USA states and Canadian provinces (decent)
  • national borders in the world (terribly outdated, from 1980s)

No official site for this although a number of websites have it available to download.

Boundaries and coastlines dataEdit

wdbtemp4.e00 by UNEP/GRID is the source of most data for The first useful map is extracted from

We can parse it by hand or using Geo::E00 module from CPAN ( ).


Rivers data is extracted from different version of CIA WDB II.

Investigated and rejectedEdit

Data distributed with GMTEdit

Data based on CIA World DataBank II but with reasonably new borders and some other changes.

From manpage:

      The coastline database is compiled from two sources: World
      Vector  Shorelines  (WVS)  and  CIA  World  Data  Bank  II
      (WDBII).  In particular, all level-1 polygons  (ocean-land
      boundary) are derived from the more accurate WVS while all
      higher level polygons (level 2-4, representing  land/lake,
      lake/island-in-lake, and island-in-lake/lake-in-island-in-
      lake boundaries) are taken from WDBII. Much processing has
      taken place to convert WVS and WDBII data into usable form
      for GMT: assembling closed polygons  from  line  segments,
      checking  for  duplicates,  and  correcting  for crossings
      between polygons. The area of each polygon has been deter-
      mined  so  that  the  user may choose not to draw features
      smaller than a minimum area (see -A); one may  also  limit
      the  highest hierarchical level of polygons to be included
      (4 is the maximum). The 4 lower-resolution databases  were
      derived  from  the full resolution database using the Dou-
      glas-Peucker line-simplification algorithm. The  classifi-
      cation of rivers and borders follow that of the WDBII. See
      the GMT Cookbook and Technical Reference  Appendix  K  for
      further details. [True]

ESRI dataEdit

Newer data on political boundaries, also contains road and rail information. However the site doesn't allow you to download all of the data at once, so to use it someone will need to download the data for each country seperately. --Imran
Let's see if I can use Perl to automate it a bit ... Damn, no luck this time Taw 13:35, 17 Aug 2003 (UTC)

Needs investigationEdit

City coordinates - non-USEdit

Data on city coordinates (world except USA) is available from

Really nice, 180MB compressed, includes even tiny villages

City coordinates - USAEdit

USA data is available from

US CensusEdit - they have state/county boundary maps in USA


Data for Africa's admin boundaries (up to level 3).

Elevation dataEdit

Ok, here's what I found out: we could use the data from the NGDC-GLOBE Project which features 1-km elevation data released in public domain for the whole globe except Australia;

GTOPO30 includes Australia - 30 arc second - so ~1km resolution. A rendered version of this can be found at EarthETC.

I'm sure we'd be able to get the political and administrative divisions from some other public domain/GPL-ed source and map it over the elevation data (haven't really searched for this, but these guys seem to have something like this based on their fancy "recent visitors" page); and finally, although I can't find it now, I remember I was able to locate a public domain list of GPS locations of almost all cities on Earth on some military US site, so we could also plot those on the resulting map. Now the problem is that we wouldn't have rivers, roads, streets, railways, nothing. Maybe someone else gets lucky and finds some public domain data for some of those too? -- Gutza 02:32, 16 Aug 2003 (UTC)

UNEP/GRID dataEdit

Asia regional (country internal) boundaries:

Russian Federation internal boundaries:

Europe country internal boundaries (level 2):

EC internal boundaries (level 3): (upto level 2 are also included in the previous file)

And other.


USGS seems to have quite a bit of US data. But they're in some funny format. That's not only their problem, as almost all data I could find was in weird formats. Taw 03:28, 16 Aug 2003 (UTC)

The DEMs, DLGs etc you will need free GIS software like GRASS which has a very steep learning curve, or QGIS which has a graphical command interface, but does much less.

Alternatively you can use Frank Warmerdam's very wonderful GDAL/OGR libraries - - to convert between most common GIS data formats. Zooleika 04:21, 20 May 2004 (UTC)

More links, not even classifiedEdit

Geo hopes to be able to do some useful mapping work; there's a list of public domain data sources for maps:

Somemore resources:

Search for "boundaries" at for a 1998 boundaries datafile in ESRI shapefile format (Shapefile convertors available from

OK, works. Taw 12:32, 19 Aug 2003 (UTC)

Other interesting data source from the UNEP include:

Which has an updated WDB2. Also has some city data files that might prove useful (for instance it has population figures associated with city names and also marks capital cities as such) and NUTS-3 level of boundaries for Europe and Asia.

Another useful USGS site:

World map has the ESRI international borders from 1990 further updated by the UNEP for the break up of the USSR and changes in eastern europe:

Another possibility is to use WDB2 for the borders for most of the world but use the above linked ones for Europe (1992), Asia (1994 with some later updates), Russian Fed (1998) and Africa (1996) --Imran

EarthETC is a demonstration site for Image Web Server, and contains a whole bunch of raster data accessible over the internet via ecwp.

Changes in dataEdit

Lot of data is not completely up-to-date. List of major changes here:

Post Maps!Edit

Whithin GISWiki georeferenced maps (images) can be shared. See Shared Images with world file data on GISWiki for a list of available Maps.