Data from the web
The free Quickstart sources that Depiction provides are just the tip of the geo-data iceberg that exists on the Internet.
The trend is clear: data about our world is becoming increasingly accessible. Each week, more and more local, state and federal agencies, along with non-profit groups and corporations, are posting new geographic-based information on the web. Want to know about hazardous material storage sites in your county? What about potential new businesses in your neighborhood that have applied for building permits? Or the 911 dispatch calls in your city? The data is out there for you to depict almost anything you can imagine. You may also find our Depiction 101: Finding Data session helpful.
Maps and imagery
What’s the difference? A map is an artist’s rendering of an area (e.g. the folded street map in your glove compartment), whereas imagery is captured by a camera (or some other type of sensor, such as infrared) mounted on a satellite or airplane. Depiction’s Quickstart provides you with many free sources of both maps and imagery from around the world. In addition, there are many popular web sites that let you view both maps and imagery – such as MapQuest, Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Local government sites – check out your city or county - can often provide timelier and higher detailed versions, using either a custom web viewer or on a DVD.
There are a couple of ways to bring maps and imagery into Depiction. You can simply load any image file of a map or satellite/aerial photo into your depiction (Add > File) and use the geo-align feature to quickly form-fit the picture against other images in your depiction.
If the map or image is not saved in a file but just on your screen (like when you view many specialized map web viewers), then simply grab a screenshot of what you see on your computer and save the image as a .jpg (jpeg) or .bmp (bitmap) image before importing into depiction. There is even a specialized picture file format that contains geographic information built-into it: GeoTIFF. With these file types, you skip the geo-aligning step and simply load it – Depiction automatically aligns it in the right place in your world.
Depiction uses elevation data to run many of its simulations--floods, line of sight, runoff and more. It provides Quickstart data for the US at a resolution of 30 meters, but Depiction can use elevation data from many sources. More detailed data for the US can be found at the USGS Seamless server, and 30-meter worldwide data can be obtained from ASTER-GDEM, a project of the Japanese government and NASA. NOAA also has a portal for coastal elevation data (including ocean floor) for areas at risk for tsunamis, here. Read this blog entry or view our Elevation Data Retrieval tutorial video for tips on using this data.
Recognizing how confusing it can be for citizens to go to scores of different agency websites, there are now many “one-stop shopping” clearinghouses to help you find geographic-based information about your community. Check your own city or county or state web sites (look for the “Geographic Information Systems” or GIS department). Here are a few examples:
- GISUSER.COM GIS Spatial Data Clearinghouse Directory: http://www.gisuser.com/content/view/16966/
- The U.S. Government’s primary portal, Geodata.Gov: http://gos2.geodata.gov/wps/portal/gos
The U.S. government’s National Atlas download page: http://www.nationalatlas.gov/atlasftp.html
The Canadian government’s primary portal, GeoGratis: http://geogratis.cgdi.gc.ca/
State of Arizona’s portal: http://agic.az.gov/portal/dataList.do?sort=theme&dataset=0
California County’s portal: http://www.coordinatedlegal.com/gis.html
State of Massachusetts’s portal: http://www.mass.gov/mgis/laylist.htm
The State of Montana’s portal: http://gisportal.msl.mt.gov/GPT9/catalog/main/home.page
State of New Mexico’s portal: http://rgis.unm.edu/browsedata#
State of North Carolina County portal at NCSU: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/gis/counties.html
The State of Utah’s portal: http://gis.utah.gov/download
Washington D.C.’s data catalog: http://dcatlas.dcgis.dc.gov/catalog/
USGS Earthquake Scenarios: http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/shakemap/list.php?x=1&s=1
Many of these portals simply list the files by category for you to download directly. Some may require you to register for free before providing access (e.g. Washington D.C.). Others, especially county or city portals, may charge for access to the information. Be sure and check the policy for your locality.
We have also found some sources in Washington State, and listed them here.
Like the government portals above, many universities around the world provide a collection of files or links to geographic information for their region and the world. Here are a few examples:
- University of Oregon provide GIS data sources by state in the US:
University of Washington:
The University of Chicago provides a comprehensive list of data portals around the world:
Harvard University provides a similar list of both government and commercial data resources:
Delta State University in Mississippi provides the US National Grid in shapefile format:
University of Colorado has a nice exercise on collecting tectonic data:
Private commercial sources
Many non-profits and companies provide data or links to data for free – or for a fee – depending on their business model. Here are a few examples:
http://geocommons.com/ (Use the Search tool to find data in .shp or .csv format. Create an account to upload data.)
Publicly contributed data
You may also find that people in your area (or who have traveled through) share data they have collected. Often, these folks are GPS users. Particularly useful are point of interest (POI) files (in CSV format) and GPX files (paths people have saved). Here are a couple of good sites:
http://www.poi-factory.com/poifiles (you will need to create a free account to download)
Doyles GIS Links for most states: http://www.doylesdartden.com/gis/)
A repeat from above, as users can also upload their own data: http://geocommons.com/ (Use the Search tool to find data in .shp or .csv format. Create an account to upload data.)
Also of note here is http://openstreetmap.org (This site provides one of the map backgrounds and road network for Depiction. View this webinar to learn how you can contribute to improving the map, and encourage others.)