Starting a GIS project can often seem like a daunting task. When presented with a blank canvas or low resolution background map you may wonder how to get started. In a typical case, you have a few small data files in some format (like one of the 300 or so that Global Mapper supports) for your project area. However, just a few lines and points on a blank background do not provide much context and certainly nothing you would want to present to a customer. Where does one go for online data access to find additional high quality data?
Global Mapper’s Online Data Access
Luckily there is a vast quantity of free data online ready to stream right in to your project to give your data meaning. The Online Data access in Global Mapper provides streaming access to over 100 built-in sources of imagery and terrain data as well as topographic, geological, and land cover maps.
Access to streaming raster map data is pretty standard stuff. After all, everyone has used Google Maps or another online mapping service at one time or another. What is unique about Global Mapper is that you also get access to multiple sources of streaming terrain data for the entire world. These are not pre-rendered hill-shade images of terrain, but the raw terrain data itself, ready for use in any terrain-enabled function, like contour generation, view shed, path profile, 3D display, and stream generation.
We have built in access to the following terrain data sources, hosted right on our servers in the hyper-efficient GMG (Global Mapper Grid) format for maximum speed:
- SRTM 1-arc-second (30m) – Worldwide Terrain Data (excluding polar regions)
- ASTER GDEM 1-arc-second (30m) – Worldwide Terrain Data (including most of polar regions)
- USGS NED 1/3rd Arc Second (10m) Resolution – Terrain for the Entire Continental US
- [COMING SOON] US 3DEP 10m Resolution – Terrain for Entire US (Including Hawaii and Alaska)
For users working in environmental and wind power fields, we have tiled and hosted a number of land cover data sets for streaming, including the CORINE data for Europe, the NLCD data for the US, and ESA CCI data for the entire world. The NASA GIBS sources provide daily updates from several NASA satellite sensors, allowing you to pull in things like global-scale imagery, snow and sea ice cover, and temperature data for any desired date. You might pull in a couple of different dates and use the Image Swipe Tool to compare the conditions at different times or perhaps you will want to conduct some more complicated change detection analysis using any number of appropriate tools in Global Mapper (raster calculator, volume calculations, etc).
Add Your Own Data Sources to Global Mapper
While Global Mapper has a huge variety of built-in sources, we can’t even begin to include all of the streaming data sources available. We provide a mechanism on the Online Data dialog to add your own sources to the built-in list, allowing you to stream data from them just like any other source. All of the OGC standard source types are supported, like WMS/WMTS for streaming raster maps, WFS for vector data sets, and WCS for downloading individual data files for a defined area. Pre-tiled imagery and terrain data sets are also supported using the OSM (OpenStreetMaps), TMS (Tiled Map Service), and Google Maps tile schemas. You simply need to select the appropriate source type and provide the service URL from the data provider and Global Mapper should handle the rest.
Finally, if you have your own collection of data that you want to host as a streaming source, Global Mapper provides the means to distribute your data in to the tiles that GIS software can handle. The web export option allows you to export any loaded data to JPG or PNG tiles (as appropriate) with the appropriate folder and filename structure for upload to a server for streaming access on an internal or external network. Support even exists for creating an OSM tile set with GMG (Global Mapper Grid) tiles so you can create your own streaming terrain (or other gridded) data source in Global Mapper. User-created streaming sources provided a way for you to host your data once and allow your colleagues and customers to browse the data quickly without needing to download many GB (or TB) of data. You can even choose to create a sample web page for embedding your data in the Google Maps or Bing Maps interface in a web page, or browse it in WorldWind!
We are constantly adding to our default list of free online data so if you have a particular dataset that you think others would like to have access please let us know. We will do our best to add it in the release version as soon as possible. And remember to stay current with our updates to Global Mapper so you always have the latest data and fastest way to consume it. Happy mapping!
Mike Childs is currently the Global Mapper Guru at Blue Marble Geographics. Mike was the original developer of Global Mapper and has over 20 years of experience developing mapping/GIS applications. He has been with Blue Marble Geographics since 2011, when Blue Marble acquired Global Mapper.