As a researcher, it is always troublesome to find right datasets for right projects. It could be more infuriating when you lose the websites that you’ve been downloading the data from. The best idea is to bookmark the important websites so that you will never loose them.
The links are categorized as follows: (Click to jump)
Boundaries and Shoreline
Land Cover and Vegetation
Weather and Climate
Crime and Justice
Power and Energy
City or Region Specific
- 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.
- North American Environmental Atlas: Environmental data for the whole of the North American continent, including land cover, pollution, climate, ecosystems, human influence and protected species, in raster and vector formats.
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.
- US Neighbourhood Boundaries: Creative-commons licensed data from Zillow showing the extent of neighbourhoods in urban areas.
- NOAA Medium Resolution Digital Vector Shoreline: US coastlines compiled from official NOAA coastal charts covering nearly 75,000 nautical miles of coastline.
- Office of Coast Survey Chart Downloader: Free access to NOAA marine navigational charts.
Land Cover and Vegetation
- National Land Cover Database 2001 and 2006: NLCD data for download at 30m resolution. Data includes raw land cover information (in 16 classes) and data on changes between 2001 and 2006.
- Phenology: Seasonal changes in vegetation across the US from remote sensing images. Various datasets including Start of Season Time, Time of Maximum, Amplitude and Time-Integrated NDVI.
- MODIS Irrigated Agriculture dataset: Raster irrigated area maps for the US, derived from MODIS data and available at 250m and 1km resolutions.
- USGS Land Cover Trends: Land Cover Trends from approximately 1970 until 2000 at approximately 30m resolution.
- Pacific Coast Land Cover: Land Cover from 1996, 2001 and 2006 derived from Landsat images for the Pacific Coast of the USA (California, Oregon and Washington). 30m resolution.
- Chesapeake Bay Land Cover: Land cover for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed for 1984, 1992, 2001 and 2006.
- Coastal Change Analysis Program: Nationally standardised database of land cover and land cover change information for the coastal areas of the US. Available in various raster formats.
- CropScape: Crop-specific land-cover data for the continental US. Includes historic data back to 1997.
- 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.
- Pudget Sound Lidar Consortium: Public-domain high-resolution LiDAR dataset for the Pacific Northwest. Registration Required
Weather and Climate
- 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.
- National Solar Radiation Database: Over thirty years of solar radiation data from sites across the US, Guam and Puerto Rico, plus raster data at around 2km resolution.
- Iowa Environmental Mesonet: A range of up-to-date and historic weather data including storm reports, NWS warnings, climate reports and more. Not just for Iowa!
- EPA Environmental Dataset Gateway: Catalog giving access to all environmental data from the Environmental Protection Agency.
- Terrestrial Ecosystems of the United States: A mid-scale ecological classification consisting of over 800 ecosystem types found across North America.
- Digital Species Distribution Maps: Data showing distribution of a range of types of species (pollinators, birds, mammals etc.) across the USA. Downloadable as one, or split into species.
- Bird and Mammal Species Distribution Grids: Raster grids showing species distribution across the US of birds and mammals. One grid per species, approximately 1km resolution.
- National Wetlands Inventory: Wetland extent and type across the US, including information on riparian vegetation.
- Protected Areas Database of the US: Shapefile of all protected areas in the US including attribute data description uses, reasons for protection and legal status.
- 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
- Web Soil Survey: Downloadable soil data for the US in both tabular (csv) and geospatial (shp) formats.
- US Fish and Wildlife Service National GIS datasets: Information and boundaries for Coastal Barrier Resource Systems, Critical Habitats, Ecosystem Regions, National Wetlands, National Wildlife Refuge Systems etc.
- Gulf Coastal Plains and Ozarks LCC: Range of datasets provided through the conservation planning atlas for this area. Includes boundaries, ecological information, marine resources and more.
- 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
- PRIO Resource Datasets: Petroleum and diamond resource maps, globally.
- 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.
- National Water Quality Assessment Data Warehouse: Huge amounts of georeferenced data (although not always provided as GIS-ready files) about water quality, including groundwater and surfacewater sampling, discharges and health information.
- North American River Width Data Set (NARWidth): Width measurements of rivers in North America, at approximately mean discharge, from satellite data. Provided as vector points, with a range of useful attributes.
- Multibeam Bathymetry for the Lower Mississippi River: Data from the US Corps of Engineers, collected in 2013. Data from 2010 is also available
- TIGER: US-wide census data.
- TIGER/Line 2010: 2010 extracts from the census database. These files contain the boundaries of census areas, which can then be linked to census data tables.
- US Census Grids: Raster griddded datasets for census variables across the US for data from 2000. Approximately 1km resolution.
- Archive of Census-related Products: A range of census-related products produced by a research project at CIESIN including boundary, migration and microdata samples.
- 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
- National Historical GIS: Historical GIS data for the USA, including demographics, ancestry, education and more.
Crime and Justice
- National Archive of Criminal Justice Data: Crime data from the US, including various statistics – all geo-referneced but not necessarily provided in GIS-ready formats.
Power and Energy
- 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.
- US Energy Information Administration: Individual layers from their interactive mapping system, including coal mines, crude oil pipelines, petrochemical crackers, refineries and more.
- US Street Network Models and Measures: Graph data extracted from OpenStreetMap for road networks in cities and neighbourhoods across the US.
- 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
- Connecticut LiDAR DEM: 3m resolution DEM for the state of Connecticut. Can be downloaded by town or by geographic quadrangle.
- Florida Geographic Data Library Explorer
- Georgia GIS Clearinghouse
- Hawaii High Resolution Land Cover: Land cover maps for all Hawaiian islands apart from the Big Island, for 1992, 2001 and 2005. 1992 and 2001 data are from Landsat, 2005 from 2.4m Quickbird.
- Indiana Spatial Data Portal
- Iowa Natural Resources GIS Library: State-wide data on natural resources including geology, agriculture, hydrology and land cover.
- Kansas GIS Data Access and Support Center
- Kentucky Geoportal
- Louisiana State Atlas
- Maine Office of GIS
- Montana Data List
- Massachusetts GIS Layers
- Michigan Center for Geographic Information
- Minnesota Geospatial Commons
- Mississippi Geospatial Clearinghouse
- New York State GIS Clearinghouse
- New Mexico Resource GIS program
- North Carolina OneMap
- Ohio Geographically Referenced Information Program
- Oklahoma Water Resources Board GIS data
- Oregon Spatial Data Library
- Pennsylvania Spatial Data Access
- Tennessee Enterprise GIS Portal
- Tennessee State Parks data
- Texas Natural Resources Information System
- Texas University Libraries GIS data
- Utah GIS Portal
- Vermont Center for Geographic Information
- Virginia GIS Clearinghouse
- Virginia Department of Forestry
- 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.
- West Virginia GIS Technical Centre
- Wisconsin State Cartographer’s Office
- Wyoming GIS
City or Region specific
- 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.
- Washington DC GIS Clearinghouse: GIS data from the city of Washington DC including base maps, POI locations, street plans and much more.
- 3D models of Boston: Building footprints and 3D models of a large part of Boston.
- Chesapeake Bay Program: GIS data for Chesapeake Bay, including water quality and ecology datasets.
- MyCity Houston
- Houston Open Data
- Harris County GIS data
- Wake County, North Carolina: Open data portal for Wake County, North Carolina. Runs on the ArcGIS Online platform, but most datasets are available for download as shapefiles or KMLs.
- Los Angeles County GIS Data Portal: Open GIS data portal for Los Angeles County with a wide range of data.
- Southern California Association of Governments GIS & Data Services: GIS data portal for a group of Southern Californian local governments
This blog is greatly influenced by Robin Wilson‘s blog. Many thanks to him for collecting such a huge directory of websites.
I know I have missed many websites. Should you know more websites, please feel free to comment below. I will be happy to include them in this web-page.