This page contains a categorised list of links to over 300 sites providing freely available geographic datasets - all ready for loading into a Geographic Information System.
We have links to everything from arctic permafrost maps to gridded population data - simply scroll through the list, or use the dropdown menus above to jump to a specific section of interest. See the FAQ for more information on the what, who, how and why of the list.
Beware: The data linked to below may be inaccurate, incomplete, or just plain wrong. As always, critically examine the data you are using, look at what organisation produced it and what agenda they may have, and beware that there are disputes over some of the data (particularly country boundaries).
This list was last updated on 18 April 2013.
Natural Earth - Vector: Includes coastline,
land, oceans, islands, rivers, lakes, glaciated areas and bathymetry. Available at multiple levels of detail.
Natural Earth - Raster: Includes various raster images, intended
for use as backgrounds for other data, for example hypsometric tints, satellite derived land cover,
shaded relief etc.
Global Map: A set of consistent GIS layers covering the whole globe at 1km resolution including: transportation, elevation, drainage, vegetation, administrative boundaries, land cover, land use and population centres. Produced by the International Steering Committee on Global Mapping. Registration Required
DIVA-GIS Country Data: A collection of data collected from a number of the sources below - includes administrative areas, inland water, roads and railways, elevation, land cover, population and climate. Probably the easiest place to get a simple set of data for a specific country.
UNEP GEOdata: A wide range of data from the United Nations Environment Programme including Global Forest Cover, Global Potential Evapotranspiration, Global Average Monthly Temperatures, Dams, Watershed Boundaries and much more. To get data, choose Advanced Search and select Geospatial Data Sets from the top drop-down link
Koordinates: GIS data aggregation site including data in a number of categories such as elevation, environment, climate etc. Some global datasets, some based on continents, some for specific countries. Mostly vector, but some raster. Registration required
MapCruzin: GIS aggregation site including wide range of data for various areas of the world. Some datasets appears to be of low quality, but others are good.
GeoNetwork: GIS aggregation site including a wide range of data under various categories (both human and physical).
Land and Ocean Boundaries
GSHHS: A Global Self-consistent, Hierarchical, High-resolution Shoreline Database - which basically means it's good quality (no internal inconsistencies, good accuracy).
GDEM: 30m resolution global elevation data derived from ASTER satellite images
SRTM: Approx 90m (3 arc-second) resolution elevation data from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission for the whole world.
ETOPO1: 1 arc-minute resolution relief model including ocean bathymetry.
OpenTopography: A community-based site giving free access to high-resolution topography data. Data at the moment appears to be clustered on the West Coast of the USA and in Greenland, and is available both as dense point clouds and processed DEMs.
Weather and Climate
WorldClim: Climate data for past, present and predicted future conditions. Includes
temperature (min, max, mean) and precipitation. 1km x 1km resolution.
NCAR GIS Climate Change Scenarios: Lots of data from the National Centre for Atmospheric Research models, including data used by the IPCC in their reports. Registration required
CRU Climate Datasets: Various datasets including temperature, precipitation, pressure, drought,
paleoclimate and others, from the (infamous) Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia. High and low resolution datasets available.
Water Isotopes: Global grids of hydrogen and oxygen isotope composition of precipitation and environmental waters in ArcGRID format. Data can be downloaded for whole globe or individual continents.
Natural Disaster Hazards: Hazard Frequency, Mortality and Economic Loss Risk as gridded data for the globe. Covers cyclones, drought, earthquakes, flood, landslide, volcano and a combination of them all ('multihazard').
USGS Earthquakes Database: KML files of
all earthquakes recorded by the USGS (across the whole world) from 1973 to present. Available as one dataset or grouped by magnitude or year.
IBTrACS: Hurricane and tropical cyclone tracks, including attributes such as minimum pressure, maximum winds. (Also, USA tracks can be visualised here)
NOAA/WDC Historical Tsunami Database: Location information of tsunami sources and run-up events, including many attributes (eg. maximum water height, travel time). Available in TSV format which can be imported into GIS systems.
Global Burnt Area: 1km resolution map of areas of burnt vegetation across the world. Aggregated products at 0.5 and 1 degree resolutions are also available.
MODIS Fire Detection Data: Frequently updated data (including last 7 days of fires) in 1km grid format, derived from thermal anomalies from MODIS data.
USGS Land Cover Institute: Great set of links to almost all land cover datasets. Links here include most of the datasets below, and many more esoteric data such as river observations, aquifers data and ocean colour information. Although the page starts with US data, it continues with data for other continents lower down the page
Corine Land Cover Map: Europe only. Satellite derived land cover, available as at
1990, 2000 and 2006 in vector and raster formats. 100m and 250m resolutions.
GLOBCOVER: Global land cover dataset at 300m resolution from the MERIS sensor on the ENVISAT satellite.
UMD GLC: 1km resolution global land cover maps from the University of Maryland created using a classification tree approach from MODIS data
GLC2000: Global land cover map for the year 2000 created from the VEGETATION instrument on the SPOT-4 satellite. Individual continents were classified by local experts, increasing the quality of the classification overall.
Grassland GIS: Grassland extent data, along with grassland usage (eg. livestock intensity per area of grassland)
Forest GIS: Percentage tree-cover, population density and tree cover, share of wood in fuel consumption etc.
NSIDC Frozen Ground maps: Maps of various types of frozen ground (permafrost) in the Arctic and various other areas. Data can be downloaded by clicking on the map name then selecting 'Access Data'
Atlas of the Biosphere: Raster maps of environmental variables including soil pH, potential evapotranspiration, average snow depth and many more.
Lifemapper: Species distribution maps - both recorded and predicted (based on climate, terrain and land cover). Covers a huge number of species. *Data is available by clicking on Species, searching for a species and then clicking on the number of points and choosing the SHP link at the top. Alternatively, web services are available.
Net Primary Productivity: Gridded Net Primary Productivity data across the globe, including a novel measure of 'Human Appropriation of NPP' measuring how much of the NPP of an area humans are using.
World Soil Information: Gridded datasets covering the world's soils at a maximum resolution of 5 arc-minutes with 22 attributes for each cell including organic carbon content, gypsum content, water capacity etc. Data is given for topsoil and subsoil. More detailed datasets for individual countries and continents are available.
Harmonized World Soil Database: Combining regional and national soil databases and maps from many countries under the Land Use Change programme of the UN FAO. Includes soil units and parameters (such as pH, depth, and texture) and is at a resolution of 30 arc-seconds.
ReefBase GIS: GIS data about coral reefs worldwide, including extensive attribute data.
Human Impacts to Marine Ecosystems: Data from the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis on human impacts to marine ecosystems. Includes fishing impacts, ocean acidification, sea surface temperature, pollutants and more.
Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center: All data products from this center are available for download, including atmospheric CO2 concentrations (including the famous Mauna Loa dataset), precipitation data, long-term modelling data and more.
UNEP WCMC: Variety of datasets from the United Nations Environment Programme including global wetlands, global distribution of coral reefs, mangrove distributions and more.
Aquamaps: Standardised distribution maps for over 11,000 species of fish, marine mammals and invertebrates. *Data available for download under High Resolution Maps and Environmental Data links.
Mineral Resources/Oil and Gas
Mineral Resources Data System: Vector data of mineral resources across the world including names, locations, descriptions, geological characteristics etc.
UNEP GEOdata: A wide range of data from the United Nations Environment Programme including Nighttime Lights, Pollutant Emissions, Commercial Shipping Activity, Protected Areas and Administrative Boundaries. To get data, choose Advanced Search and select Geospatial Data Sets from the top drop-down link
World Bank Geodata: A wide range of World Bank datasets converted to KML format, includes GNP, schooling and financial data.
Atlas of the Biosphere: Gridded human data including per capita oil usage, literacy rate, population growth rate, built-up land and many more.
Koordinates: GIS data aggregation site including data in a number of categories such as administrative boundaries, transportation etc. Some global datasets, some based on continents, some for specific countries. Mostly vector, but some raster. Registration required
GISTPortal: Wide range of GIS data from a project funded by UNAID to provide spatial data for humanitarian purposes. Registration Required
ESPON Grid Data: Various human geography indicators in gridded raster form across Europe, including GDP, population and unemployment in 2003 and 2006.
MapCruzin: GIS aggregation site including wide range of data for various areas of the world. Some data appears to be of low quality, but others are good.
GeoNetwork: GIS aggregation site including a wide range of data under various categories (both human and physical).
Natural Earth: Includes countries, disputed areas,
first-order admin (departments, states etc), populated places, urban polygons, parks and protected
areas and water boundaries. Available at multiple levels of detail.
GADM: Global administrative boundaries, with extensive attribute sets. Covers countries and up to four levels of internal administrative boundary (states, departments, counties etc).
(For Land Cover see above)
UN Second Administrative Level Boundaries: Multi-level administrative boundaries data for the world, created in co-ordination with national mapping agencies. Contains information on historic changes since 1990. Registration required
World Borders: World country borders with attributes including country codes (FIPS, ISO etc), area and populations.
Europe in the World: Administrative boundaries for Europe with lots of attribute data for each country/region including information on economy, demography and infrastructure.
Global Land Use Dataset: Gridded data at 0.5 degree resolution showing population density, potential natural vegetation, cropland extent, grazing land extent, built-up land extent, crop extent (for 18 major crops) and land suitability for cultivation
Human Influence and Footprint: Human Influence Index and Human Footprint calculated from various factors which exert human influence on ecosystems, for example population distribution, urban areas, navigable rivers etc. Available at 30 arc-second resolution.
Global Agricultural Lands: Extent and intensity of use of agricultural lands (both cropland and pasture) in 2000 from MODIS and SPOT images and agricultural inventory data.
Coastal Water Quality: Quality of coastal waters across the globe measured by chlorophyll concentrations from SeaWIFS satellite. Data for 1998 and 2007.
Global Reservoir and Dam Database: Geographically-referenced data on all reservoirs with a storage capacity of more than 0.1 cubic kilometres. The data consists of polygons outlining reservoirs at high spatial resolution with extensive metadata about the dam and reservoir.
Wars, Conflict and Crime
ACLED: Armed Conflict Location and Event Data - containing all reported conflict events in 50 countries in the developing world. Data from 1997 to present, and in Afghanistan and Pakistan from 2006 until present.
Global Terrorism Database: A database of terrorist events (both domestic and international) across the world from 1970-2008, including location and attribute information.
Global Urban Extent: Maps showing urban extent across the world, at 500m resolution, derived from MODIS images. Requires email to author to download
GeoHive: Population and country statistics. Not provided in GIS data formats, but can easily be converted from CSV
Buildings, Roads and Points of Interest
OpenStreetMap: Crowd-sourced data for the whole world consisting of most things you'd find on a standard local paper map: points of interest, buildings, roads and road names, ferry routes etc.
POI Factory: Point of Interest files originally designed for use in GPS units, but they can be loaded into a GIS fairly easily. Widely varying quality, and coverage, but includes such things as shop
and business locations (eg. all Tesco stores, all McDonald's restaurants) as well as places of worship, speed cameras etc. Registration is required. To download data in a GIS-ready form choose Garmin CSV format on the download page. The CSV file will contain Latitude and Longitude in WGS-84 co-ordinates, as well as descriptions.
SimpleGeo's Places: Point of Interest data from SimpleGeo, provided as a 2Gb Zip file and licensed under the Creative Commons license. Contains over 21 million POIs for over 63 countries.
Nuclear Power Station locations: Locations of all nuclear power stations worldwide (according to the IAEA), provided as a Google Fusion Table. Export to CSV for easy import to a GIS system
Transport and Communications
Open Flights: Airport, airline and route data across the globe. Data is provided as CSV files which can be easily processed to produce GIS outputs. Data includes all known airports, and a large number of routes betwen airports.
World Port Index: Dataset from the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency listing approximately 3700 ports across the world, with location and facilities offered.
Global Roads Open Access Data Set: A vector dataset of roads across the world, using a globally consistent data model, and suitable for mapping at the 1:250,000 level. Only roads between settlements are included, not residential streets, and the dataset is accurate to approximately 50m. This dataset is in beta-testing at the moment and will be fully available shortly
Undersea Telecommunications Cables: Open source undersea telecommunication cables map, updated frequently. Data can be visualised in the embedded viewer or shapefiles can be downloaded by clicking the Raw Data link on the top right.
Gazetteers (place/feature names)
NGIS Country Files: A list of names of regions, areas and populated places for each country in the world, provided by the US Government, with geo-references for each place.
Geonames Country Information: List of all countries in the world with ISO and ISO3 country code (eg. GB for the United Kingdom and FR for France) with capital city, area, population, internet top-level domain, currency, official languages and neighbours.
GRUMP Settlement Points: Locations of individual settlements (as a time series, showing new settlements appearing over time), derived from the Global Rural-Urban Mapping Project.
Internet Map: Data which can be used to produce maps like those shown here showing major linkages in the internet, as well as density of people online.
Geoscience Australia: Australian Government GIS data site, including a lots of free data such as topographic maps, geological data, hydrological maps and more.
Australian Government Data: Data from the Australian Government's OpenData programme, including soil, climate and census data. This link shows only data available as shapefiles. Click the KML link to show KML data instead.
Brazil Geosciences Products: Wide range of datasets for Brazil, including basemaps, administrative boundaries and land use. You may need a bit of Portuguese knowledge to use the site, and some maps are only available in PDF format. Many are available as Shapefiles in the directories whose names end with SHAPE.In Portugeuese
GeoGratis: A wide range of free datasets covering Canada including population, Landsat mosaics, land capability, hydrology and radar data - as well as many others.
GeoBase: Freely available GIS data overseen by the Canadian Council on Geomatics. Includes administrative boundaries, geographical names, elevation, orthorectified satellite imagery, road networks and much more. Registration required
Toporama: Simplified raster versions of the standard National Topographic Survey maps at 1:50,000 and 1:250,000.
Canada Road Network File: Canada's national road network as shapefile data with information including street names, types, directions and address ranges.
Canadian Soil Information Service: Soil maps for the whole of Canada available for download in GIS formats (mainly shapefiles with associated attribute data). Includes lots of metadata and process/methodology information.
British Colombia Digital Geology Map: Detailed geological maps for the province of British Colombia, available in shapefile and PDF formats. Data from 2005 and a beta version from 2011.
DataBC: Various free and open datasets from the government of British Columbia *(to find geographic datasets, follow links to the catalogue, and then choose Geospatial Dataset under Resource Types)*
Kenya GIS: Wide range of GIS data (provided as shapefiles) for Kenya including population, land cover, agriculture, poverty and climate.
Georeferenced Population: 1990 population for Mexican states, municipalities and islands. Data aligns with US TIGER data at US-Mexican border.
Digital Atlas of Namibia: Freely available data for Namibia in categories of Climate, Physical Geography, Living-resources, Land and History and People, Services and Infrastructure.
Namib Sand Sea Digital Database: Set of data covering the Namib Sand Sea (area of sand dunes in Namibia) including DEMs, satellite images, point ages and dune crests.
ICIMOD Geoportal: Data from the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, focusing on the Himalayas.
PDOK: Digital topographic maps at various scales available as both vector and raster data.
LINZ Topographic Maps: Freely available raster copies of Land Information New Zealand topographic maps at 1:50,000 and 1:250,000 scales. Equivalent of Ordnance Survey maps for New Zealand.
LINZ Data Service: A new service by Land Information New Zealand. Topographic, hydrographic, survey, titles and geodetic datasets are freely accessible with more LINZ datasets added over time.
Koordinates: GIS data aggregation site which focuses especially on New Zealand. It includes data in a number of categories such as elevation, environment, climate etc. Mostly vector, but some raster. Registration required
LRIS Data Portal: GIS data for New Zealand from Landcare Research, focussing on soil and environmental data and including 25m-resolution DEMs of North and South Island.
Norweigan Land Cover: Various datasets concerning land resources in Norway provided by the Norwegian Landscape and Forest Institute, including land type, forest, tree species and site index with a scale from 1:5000 to 1:250000.
Papa New Guinea
Coastline: 1:50,000 coastline of Papa New Guinea, in MapInfo format. Derived from Landsat data.
GIS Data Clearinghouse: Various datasets relating to the Philippines including boundaries, DEMs, rainfall, and river data.
Portugese Web Atlas: Many datasets including physical geography data (temperature, wind, geology, seismic data, ecology, soils), human geography data (tourism, population, services), protected areas and detailed data on the Azores and Madeira
Geology of Puerto Rico: Detailed geological maps in vector format, with extended attribute information. From USGS.
GeoSpatial Romania: Good selection of vector and raster layers for Romania, including historical information.
Ministry of Environment SIA: Vector data focussing on water resources (lakes, reservoirs, rivers, watersheds, wetlands, environmental protection areas, polluants etc) but also including regions, populated places etc. In Spanish
SwissTopo: Data from the Swiss National Mapping Agency including boundaries, 1:1 million vector maps, Landsat images, geological maps and a map of Switzerland during the last glacial maximum.
Swiss Geoportal: The Geoportal of the Swiss Confederation - with some data available directly and others via links to other sites.
United Kingdom (UK)
OS OpenData: Many Ordnance Survey mapping products available in both vector and raster formats. Resolutions from 1:250k to 1:10k as well as detailed gazateers, boundary datasets and post-code point locations.
ShareGeo Open: Directory of free GIS data for the UK, easily searchable - includes wide range of data including boundaries, national parks, contours, archeological sites and much more.
MAGIC Datastore: A wide range of datasets for the UK including boundaries, pipelines, urban areas, health and safety and more. Many entries in the database are links to other sites and some require registration.
New Popular Edition OS Maps: Scans of many of the (out-of-copyright) New Popular Edition OS maps from the 1940s and 1950s. Available to view online and to download by contacting the authors.
Guardian Datablog: Wide range of data, mostly UK-focused but some international, collected by The Guardian newspaper in the UK.
Natural England: Natural landscape boundaries including areas of National Parks, National Nature Reserves, SSSIs, Common Land, AONBs, Bogs, Mudflats etc.
Atlas of Rural Settlement in England: GIS data of the maps from Brian Roberts and Stuart Wrathmella's An Atlas of Rural Settlement in England, including extensive metadata. Includes locations of settlements, provinces and regions as well as terrain types and more.
Edubase: Data from the UK Government on all educational establishments (Nurseries, Primary Schools, Secondary Schools, Universities) in England and Wales. To download data, click Subscribe on the left and register. Two downloads are permitted per year.
Buildings and Points of Interest
Postbox locations: Locations of Royal Mail postboxes across the UK, derived from a Freedom of Information request to Royal Mail, plus OpenStreetMap data. Provided in tab-separated format, with latitude and longitude co-ordinates
Postal boundaries: Postcode boundaries at multiple levels (from postal town areas to unit postcodes), released under an open data license.
London Open Data: Open access to data that the Greater London Authority and other related organisations holds
US National Atlas: All raw data contained in the National Altas is available for downloading including everything from agricultural census data, presidential election results, airports, railways, glaciers, arsenic content in groundwater, and much more.
USGS Historical Topographic Maps: Electronic copies of USGS Topographic Maps from the last 125 years. Provided in GeoPDF format, which isn't great for importing into GIS software, but apparently can be converted to GeoTIFF in the latest version of GDAL
National Geophysical Data Center: List of all free data from the NGDC - sorted alphabetically not by category, but includes elevation models, land cover, seismology and more.
Boundaries and Shorelines
US Cartographic Boundaries: Cartographic boundaries, including city boundaries, counties, school districts, voting districts, zip code areas and congressional districts. Mainly from the 2000 census, but some later data.
National Elevation Dataset: Regularly updated DEM for the whole of the US, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Varies from 10m-30m resolution, using best available data for each region.
Great Lakes Bathymetry: Detailed bathymetry data for the Great Lakes at 3 arc-second resolution. To download data click the Create Custom Grids and fill in the areas you want.
Coastal Relief: Various coastal DEMs of the USA at various resolutions. Whole US coastline combining bathymetry and land elevation out to the end of the continental slope is available at 3 arc-second resolution, and various areas available at higher resolution.
NREL Wind: Wind availablity data across the US from the perspective of wind turbine generation.
Snow Data Assimilation System: Gridded data at 30 arc-seconds, from September 2003 till present, including snow depth, snow water equivalent, solid precipitation, liquid precipitation and more. Contiguous US only.
Ecological Land Cover Map: The most complete map ever produced of vegetative associations for the US. Land cover is classified in to 551 Ecological Systems and 32 Modified Ecological Systems (areas where human impacts have affected the ecology). Available for download as ARC GRID or ERDAS IMAGE
Soil Data Mart: Downloadable soil data for the US in both tabular (csv) and geospatial (shp) formats.
Geological maps of the US states: Detailed geological maps with extended attribute data for each of the US states. To download data select the state, then the area, then click the reference link at the bottom. Scroll down to the bottom and the files are available for download.
Geology of the conterminous US: Similar to the above but in one file for the coterminous US, not including Hawaii and Alaska. Far easier to download than the above.
Magnetic Anomalies: Airborne measurement of magnetic anomalies across the whole of North America, in raster format.
USGS EnergyVision: Maps of various factors relating to energy use in the USA, the most relevant of which is the USA and world-wide geological maps. To download, view the web map, then click on the dropdown box labelled MORE and scroll to the Download GIS data option
National Hydrography Dataset: Geodatabases of hydrological information for the US, including lakes, ponds, streams, rivers, dams and streamgauges. Topologically-correct network is available allowing for flow modelling.
TOD Database: Economic and demographic information for areas around fixed transit station in the US. Available at three levels - 1/2 mile buffer around station, aggregated transit zones, transit regions. Registration required
US National Power Grid: Data from FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) showing rough locations of transmission lines and their connectivities. Data from 1993 and has not been updated since.
Emissions & Generation Resource Integrated Database: A comprehensive data source on the environmental characteristics (air emissions, resource mix, net generation and more) of all electrical power sources in USA. Each record contains location information, allowing use in GIS.
The links below are to individual states' GIS data sites. They normally contain a wide range of data for the state, including administrative boundaries, ortho-photos, climate data, DEMs and building footprints. Of course, every state is different so some states may have more/less data than others. Descriptions are only provided below when a site has significantly different data to that listed above
Washington State Department of Transport: Various transport-related datasets for Washington including airports, ferry routes, railways and traffic counts. Also includes some non-transport data including relief, national scenic areas and major lakes.
New York City GIS: Data specific to New York city including building footprints, street centrelines, pavement edges, open space, railways, shorelines and elevation. All provided as shapefiles and MapInfo files.
Bytes of the Big Apple: Linear basemaps, zoning information and areas of particular planning interest for New York City.
I kept coming across GIS datasets online that looked like they might be useful - for my research, my friends research, or just for fun! I thought I'd keep a list of the ones that looked good - and then decided to put it online so that other people could benefit from it too. Fast-forward a few months and this is what you have: over three-hundred links, and hundreds of hits per day.
Where did you find the datasets?
A variety of places really. Some I knew about already, and some I had used in my research (or read about in the scientific literature). Others I came across online, particularly through GIS.SE and the GIS LinkedIn group. A number of items came from a wide-range of people who sent me links, asking me to add them to this site.
What are the requirements for a dataset in this list?
As you might guess from the title - I only list free GIS datasets here. That word is rather ambiguous (just ask Richard Stallman!), but here I use the meaning of 'free as in beer', and I include sites that provide data free for non-commercial purposes. Funnily enough, given the title, I don't link to datasets that cost money!
Is there anything I can do to help?
I'm glad you asked - of course there is! Three things really: you can tell your friends and colleagues about the site (see the Facebook and Twitter links on the top-right?), you can email me information about new datasets to link to (see below), and you can donate some money (see that button on the top-right?) to help me cover the costs of hosting this.