Natural Earth version 1.3 release notes

When Natural Earth relaunched in December 2009 with updated raster and new vector data our aim was two fold: First, to give cartographers an off-the-shelf solution for creating small-scale world, regional and country maps from scratch. Second, we included a wealth of features both large and small in hopes of improving the overall geographic literacy of map readers. Since then, we’ve taken Natural Earth on an around-the-world road show and January 2011 saw our 150,000th direct download and 500,000th pageview. We even made it into Wikipedia, were featured in PrettyMaps, and power some of the goodness behind Google Fusion Tables. With today’s 1.3 release, we add a couple newly independent countries, better delineate the world’s states and provinces, and make a whole host of corrections and additions to the original dataset, detailed below. Please continue to use these fine map ingredients to make great web and print geo mashups. Bon appetit.

Nathaniel Vaughn Kelso and Tom Patterson

Raster downloads are still á la carte for 10m and 50m resolutions.


Files continue to be published in GIS industry standard .shp shapefiles and .tif geotiff imagery in WGS84 “geographic” projection.

By the numbers: Almost 10 new files or packages have been introduced in this release. If specific descriptions are not provided below, you may assume version 1.3 edits relate to topology and extent (vector) or georeferencing (raster) and not content. That said, the majority of files (171 out of 197) have changed with minor to large edits in version 1.3. The version is indicated on each download page. More than three-quarters of the initial 1.0 files have changed collectively in this and the prior two updates. If a file has not changed, it retains it’s earlier version number.

A new Natural Earth quick start kit (158 mb) has been added to provided a small sample of the Natural Earth themes styled in an ArcMap .MXD document (read more at the Esri Mapping Center soon) and in a QGIS document.

OSGeo Live DVD now includes small sample of Natural Earth themes for use with open source GIS software like QGIS.


Four new cross-blended hypsometric tints resolutions now offer merged ocean bottom data and hypsometric tints without relief shading to better allow you to mashup your own.

All TIFs are now GeoTIFs with projection and cell size, registration points baked in. Readme files have been added to all. A few files that had .tfw.txt are now just .tfw. A few corrupt header files have been fixed. The corrected files were silently updated a month or so ago.


Many but not all features at 10m scale have been clipped to ±180, ±90 bounding box. Some themes have also had their geometry repaired to make them easier to geoprocess and reproject. The goal is to make it easier to use Natural Earth in open source software that until those app’s import horizon expands.


Lakes: Added Puma Yumco lake in Tibet on the Chinese border with Bhutan: Y5EVSR84JU. Added a new Pluvial 10m lake theme for prehistoric water bodies starting with the Great Basin area of the United States and can grow to include more features as you send them in. Historic lakes include a more precise Aral Sea and now includes Lake Texcoco at Mexico City, circa 1500. ZT36PABLD9

Rivers: Modified river and lake center lines and scale ranks for 10m North America supplement and 10m Europe river supplement. The main 10m River files also received a couple edits. Address correction requests RL8SJ4XZE7 and 99SJ9ZYDBY. Specifically: Added the IJssel river in the Netherlands, corrected the Hollandsch Diep / Haringvliet / Volkerak in the Netherlands (initial version had 2 more or less parallel lines which actually are the north and south shore of a very wide river estuary). Also, FID 1114 / RiverNum 972 has been deleted in the Netherlands. Sacramento River in California has been adjusted at it’s mouth. Neighborhing Mokelumne River has been realigned to drain into the San Joaquin in the delta. St. Croix River on the border of Wisconsin and Minnesota becomes the dominant feature rather than Namekagon River in the dissolved version.

Label areas:

Maritime label areas get corrections and many additions so all 50m ocean areas are now identified: WTXWNWSJ5B. The bulk of work adds small and medium sized insular waters in south east Asia, Antarctica, the Canadian Arctic, BC and Alaska, and southern Chile. Renamed water body in Netherlands: A6171Z89G6. Added Sargasso Sea around and east of Bermuda in North Atlantic Ocean. Added San Francisco Bay and Monterey Bay in California. Added more detail in the Amazon delta. Added Columbia River and Yangtze River mouths.

Land label areas now clip North America, Europe, and Asia to 50 km to shoreline to promote more realistic auto labeling. The West Indies (Caribbean) and Central America no longer included in North America, scaleRank adjusted to view these sooner. Similar edits in Southeast Asia. New Region and Subregion columns added to account for discrepancies between labeling needs and geocoding needs (and to sidestep which “continent” breakdown to subscribe to). Also introduces concept of Oceania into the dataset. In the physical label areas for featureClass “ismus” is now “isthmus” and the “pen/cape” and “penn/cape” categories have been merged to “pen/cape” N71VZEYD8A. Several edge conditions along the ±180 line addressed. WARNING: There is an Easter egg in this theme, be aware! It has been coding as “here be dragons”. See admin-0 warning below.

Label points and elevation points: Moved Cape May USA-MD north and adjusted Cape Hatteras in USA-NC. Other random nips and tucks on XY alignment on other geography label points. In the featureClass for these,

Geographic lines: Added new Kiribati date line extension (and clipped to ±180 ±90 bounding box).

Parks: Two new U.S. National Park Service units added as the system expands to 384 total: President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home National Historic Site in Arkansas and River Raisin National Battlefield Park in Michigan. A new [Name] column has been added for easier map labeling at small scales. The existing [UnitName] continue to carry the official abbreviated name for labeling at large scales.

Populated places:

Fix handful of city issues in all scales. Brazil cities: YPP36NGZXJ California: PE2V7VALZZ. At some point would be nice to add another round of cities to get all “metropolitan” and “micropolitan” urban areas around the word. Some research has been done for North America and Europe. Please let Nathaniel know if you can help.


NOTE: There continues to be some confusion about the file structure. Most people will find the “countries” adm-0 file most useful. The other files are provided if you need conform to a different adm-0 coding to aggregate disputed areas (like Western Sahara) or surface other administrative regions (like England in the UK). There are less than 10 sovereignty’s around the world with dependencies or constituent countries. There are 187 other sovereign countries with no adm_0 subdivisions. There are 20 more countries that form subdivisions of the aforementioned sovereignties for a total of 207 countries and another 36 dependencies. (Please be aware that Natuaral Earth counts the de facto status of countries like Taiwan and Somaliland.) There are 9 disputed and/or indeterminate areas. There are 5 lease areas or other overlay for a total of 257 “top level” adm_0 features. Map units accommodate 50 subdivisions like England versus Wales that aren’t part of the standard schema but are commonly identified by ISO or other bodies. It is helpful to label parts of countries that are not contiguous and the map subunits make that possible.

New countries: The Netherlands Antilles was dissolved in October 2010 and two new countries (Sint Maarten and Curaçao) were created out of part of the former territory, with the remaining islands devolved back to Netherlands as top-level, overseas administrative units of that country. Aruba remains a country.

WARNING: A troubleshooting country has been added with an Indeterminate sovereignty class called Null Island (1, 2). It is a fictional, 1 meter square island located off Africa where the equator and prime meridian cross. Being centered at 0,0 (zero latitude, zero longitude) it is useful for flagging geocode failures which are routed to 0,0 by most mapping services. Aside: “Null Islands” exist for all local coordinate reference systems besides WGS84 like State Plane (and global if not using modern Greenwich prime meridian). Null Island in Natural Earth is scaleRank 100, indicating it should never be shown in mapping. Side note: Rank 30 (zoom 29 in Google speak) is 1:1 scale and would require over 288 billion million tiles with a total storage requirement of more than 3.5 billion million megabytes which verges on Borges’ essay On Exactitude in Science). Null Island should only be used during analysis and will keep errant points off your maps. A general rule of thumb in Natural Earth is to always limit your labels to the zoom that matches your current map scale (or one less for less dense labeling). Read more about web and print map scales at Esri Mapping Center (with the caveat that Natural Earth adds an extra rank 4 to get features at 1:50,000,000 scale, so Google’s 4 is our 5, counting from 0). To help with labeling, the version 1.2 [Name] column has been renamed [Adm0_name] in version 1.3 and the [Name_small] has been renamed [Name] and features like Null Island, Cyprus’s No Mans Land, Kashmir’s Siachen Glacier, and Korea’s No Man’s Land that should not be labeled at Natural Earth’s 1:10 million scale do not have a value. The new [Name] field should be auto detected in ArcMap.

New map units: New United Kingdom subdivisions for England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland in 110m to match the 50m and 10m versions. Map units continue to not receive lines in the 110m version to discourage that practice at small scales.

Looking forward: South Sudan remains a map unit of Sudan in this version. Assuming they declare independence, a 1.3.1 update will be released.

Pacific grouping lines adjusted to snap to 1° increments. The 110m version receives the same PacGroup column as the 50m version.

Tiny countries: Ascension island moved to correct location nearer Africa north of St. Helena from erroneous position on South Georgia I. in 50m and 110m files. Adm0_A3 codes adjusted and moved to their own self titled column.

Housekeeping: Changed – to _ in 10m_admin_0_scale_ranks_with_minor_islands. San Marino and Vatican were significantly misaligned with adm_1 features. China and Hong Kong boundary has been similarly fixed.  Added name diff columns between sov_adm0, adm0_units, and units_subunits. United Kingdom versus England. Helps with labeling compositing. Morocco gains a Western Sahara map unit division to allow easier reassignment into the more popular ISO geography coding (but remains part of the country of Morocco since it is de facto administered by that country; the strip of sovereign Western Sahara remains). Changed the scale rank on Belgium’s adm-0 regions to allow for better auto labeling.

Improvements: The 10m received the same attribute treatment as the 50m and 110m administrative themes received in prior versions. This fixes numerous name and coding issues (Gambia, The; Korea, North; bad Congos, etc). All scales now include Abbreviation and shorter “postal” codes to ease labeling. There is some indication provided when to alternate these based on labelRank and scaleRank. As your map gets more detailed, “postal” code labels should transition to abbreviations, then [Name], then the Adm0 level name at the most detailed scales. The updated attributes are also applied on updated 50m and 110m themes. In Sudan Abyei has removed from South Sudan adm_0 map units as that province has the right to join the South, but is not part of the South. Added alt names for Bonin Islands in Pacific Ocean, part of Japan; Ogasawara Island; Ogasawara Islands HNT3P6UXRJ, M7LLU3MUR8, 6Y5XZQGE1E List of administrative units has grown to 400 comprising subdivisions of existing Natural Earth countries into either nested administrative divisions or geographic areas for map labeling purposes.

Added and revised some adm-0 maritime indicator lines. Moved Aland land boundary line to maritime indicator (and added one between Aland and the mainland).

Adm-1 (states, provinces, etc):

NOTE: Subdivisions for small countries, especially those in the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, remain absent from Natural Earth. If you’re using the adm_1 polygons to do point-in-poly detections, first run thru the adm_1 features and some points don’t have a match (or very near match), run those problem points against the adm_0 features to at least determine which country they geocode against.

All scales now include Abbreviation (US, Canada, partial UK) and shorter 2 to 3 digit “postal” codes to ease labeling (US, Canada, Mexico, Australia. Guessed at rest based on HASC/ISO codes, which themselves need more editing in the 10m version). There is some indication provided when to alternate these based on labelRank and scaleRank. Region coding has also been provided for UK and US, could expand in the future (address inconsistency in France and Italy in particular where Natural Earth continues to show admin 1 regions rather than departments).

States and provinces (both polygons and lines) now have correct ADM0_A3 codes and use the same MAP_COLOR column as the adm-0 in all scale sets. Due to popular demand, a new supplementary version of the adm_1 polygons are provided with large lakes erased (lakes scaleRank <= 2). GeoDB and SHP now added to download options. ZZ7DR1ZXAU

The 10m adm-1 file needs further edit on the names, geometries, and attributes, a never ending task since these geographies change year-to-year. We need more help in this area, please contact nathaniel [at] naturalearthdata [dot] com.

Some names and codes and splits have been made based on Jill the MapDiva’s help and our original research. Many thanks to her!

Added SameAsCity column to indicate if the label should be placed only at a certain natural scale since the adm-1 name is the same (or very similar) to the adm-1 capital populated place point label. It’s only as accurate as the populated places coding, so needs another round of edit. Added labelRank and changed scaleRank and dataRank to better conform to when to see polygon, when to see label, and what features to prioritize future edits and change detection. Added scale ranking to adm-1 lines so they can appear in tandem with the polys.

Countries with notable changes:

  1. Algeria: Changed Biskra duplicate to El Qued.
  2. Australia: Jervis Bay Territory split from Capitol Territory.
  3. Bangladesh. Extra Barisal islands up by Dhaka merged with Dhaka prov.
  4. Belgium: To only adm-1, had been mix of adm-2 and adm-3 as well (thanks Hans!).
  5. Bhutan: Extra Pemagatsel merged with Samdrup Jongkhar (and slice off main Pemagatsel poly, too).
  6. China: Gansu duplicate name changed to Qinghai.
  7. Croatia: Polys merged. Herced Novi assumes the western lobe of Tivat duplicate.
  8. Congo: Several changes.
  9. Cyprus: removing western British base from Cyprus adm_1.
  10. Denmark: Old version deleted, new added to conform to circa 2007 regions.
  11. Djibouti: south duplicate Djibouti renamed Arta.
  12. Ethiopia Addis Ababa holes fixed (assigned to multiple provinces).
  13. Fiji: Extra Western renamed Northern.
  14. Finland Ostrobothnia renames (2x)
  15. Germany adjustments Z4BN7R9DU4. Merged two Bremen islands to one multi-poly. Offshore Helgoland to Schleswig-Holstein.
  16. Golan in Israel (removed disputed UN administered area).
  17. Guinea gets Conakry Kindia adm-1 line.
  18. India: 2nd instance of Dadra and Nagar Haveli = Gujarat; 2nd instance of Kerala = extra island that could be combined with others. Daman & Diu was missing. Merged West Bengal duplicates.
  19. Italy: Ponza island merged with Lazio region.
  20. Ivory Coast: Removed Nimba poly. Removed tons of old adm-1 lines.
  21. Japan: Name adjustments: 7MW5BGDGWA
  22. Kuwait splits and merges.
  23. Kyrgyzstan extra Bishkek is renamed Chuy.
  24. Lebanon – North Lebanon and Beqaa get merged with large extra polys (a dup north and a dup Mt. Lebanon)
  25. Macedonia’s Debarca receives name (was n.a.). Renamed northern “Southwestern” to Oslomej. Extra Dojran (2x) merged with parent and with Valandovo.
  26. Malaysia: Negeri Sembilan islands in Selangor merged with main poly.
  27. Mexico island from Baja to mainland (merged).
  28. Netherlands to follow changed river alignment, and extended into IJsselmeer to match elsewhere (Hans). Corrected the border between Noord-Brabant and Zuid-Holland to match the corrected rivers. Corrected the border of Utrecht.
  29. New Zealand: Tasman added (from dup Nelson). Extra Marlborough poly merged with main.
  30. Nigeria: Ondo sliver (merged).
  31. Northern Cyprus: Deleted all adm-1 as their names and alignment could not be confirmed.
  32. Norway: two Oslo featuers merged.
  33. Oman. Ash Sharqiyah gains portion of Al Wusta.
  34. Pakistan: Sind sliver and 2nd poly merged with mainland.
  35. Paupa New Guinea: Extra Central renamed National Capital District. Other mergers of dups.
  36. Peru: Added Calleo (split from Lima Province, federal district). Clarified naming on the Lima adm-1 units (one is a province, one is a federal territory).
  37. Philippines: Multiple mergers.
  38. Poland: Two Pomeranian and two Warmian-Masurian merged together.
  39. Russia: Kamchatka consumes an Arctic adm-1. Omsk islands in Tyumen merged to multipolygon. Adm-1 lines there fixed. Samara inside Orenburg fixed (and line). Ul’yanovsk inside Tatarstan (and line). Ryazan’ inside Mordovia (and line). Kostroma in Vologda (and line). Karelia sliver merged with parent.
  40. Rwanda: Complete redo: 2GXAW4HQ1M
  41. Saudi Arabia: Merged adjacent polys for Al Jawf.
  42. Slovenia: Kozje, Krsko, Podcetrtek and Bistrica ob Sotli are remade.
  43. Solomon Islands: Multiple splits, renames, and merges
  44. Spain: Merged island in neighborhing prov back with Castile and Leon. Inholdings in Aragon / Foral de Navara.
  45. Sri Lanka: Extra Colombo polys and adm-1 lines delt with.
  46. Sudan: West Kordofan (was South. Kordofan). Adm changed on South Kordofan to SDN. 4NLED2STS2.
  47. Sweden: Stockholm slivers that were Uppsala and Sodermanland recoded and merged with correct polygon. Removed old adm-1 lines in south portion of country. (Skane, Vasta Gotaland, etc).
  48. Switzerland: Inholdings in Vaud of Fribourg
  49. Tanzania: Extra adm_1 line removed in Mtwara
  50. Tanzania: Morogoro duplicates merged, Arusha duplicate should be merged with Manyara (and connected by taking clip off Arusha)
  51. Trinidad: “Tunapuna/Piarco” adm-1 inner island to Arima.
  52. United Arab Emirates: Mergers and slivers, removing adm-1 lines.
  53. United Kingdom: Fixed UK island Lundy Island to England admin (merge).
  54. United Kingdom: Scotland: Merged dups for Moray (1 sliver), Perth and Kinross (sliver), East Lothian (several slivers to be merged with main poly), several with Scottish Borders.
  55. Vanuatu: Extra Penama merged with Malampa.
  56. Vietnam: 2nd Da Nang is Quang Nam; Quang Nam is Kon Tum. Merged a few polygons.
  57. Yemen: Adds, resort: 4NLED2STS2. Also Adan and Abyan split.

Merge sliver polygons and island polys with their larger parent polygon:

  1. Costa Rica
  2. Croatia
  3. Dominican Republic
  4. El Salvador
  5. Estonia
  6. Greece
  7. Haiti
  8. Ireland
  9. Nicaragua
  10. Nigeria
  11. Norway
  12. Panama
  13. Russia
  14. Slovenia
  15. Slovenia
  16. Spain

Deletions on a country basis:

  1. Cocos (Keeling) Islands polys as don’t conform with adm_0 threshold criteria for adm_1 subdivision. HBDVT5TDGG and EYGY3HQL86.
  2. Northern Cyprus divisions, see note above.
  3. Martinique and French Guiana arrondissements merged to form two separate integral regions of France. (They are still present in the data, but their country coding has change to France, and they no longer have sub-subdivisions.)

Added missing adm-1 lines:

  1. Cyprus
  2. Denmark
  3. Germany
  4. India
  5. Israel
  6. Mexico
  7. Rwanda
  8. Russia
  9. Spain
  10. Switzerland
  11. Syria
  12. Yemen

Removed adm-1 lines:

  1. Guinea
  2. Iraq: looses a couple extra adm-1 lines.
  3. Martinique and French Guiana arrondissements
  4. Nigeria: adm-1 lines removed from inside Federal Capital Territory.
  5. Others

Added many adm-1 maritme indicators as new “Adm-1 boundary water indicator” feature class.

  1. Croatia water indicator lines
  2. Denmark
  3. Netherlands: IJsselmeer extensions
  4. Multiple other countries
  5. Southeast Asia island nations (Indonesia and Philippines in particular) remain outstanding.

Adm-1 gaps: Closed a few inside polygon “donut holes” adm_1 lines that didn’t have coincidental start-end points:

  1. Germany to Mongolia, Panama to Australia and Yemen. Ethiopia. Taiwan. Others.
  1. Philipp says:

    Thank you very much for your Natural Earth geo data!!! I’m just dowloading v 1.3, but version 1.2 is very useful for my small projects :-)

  2. Laura McCormick says:

    Thanks so much, Nathaniel and Tom.

  3. Thanks for all your hard work on this. I, and my students, thank you.

  4. Kaichao says:

    Thank you very much for your work, and it’s very useful for our research.

  5. Aruba says:

    Hi there, after reading this amazing piece of
    writing i am also delighted to share my know-how here with friends.

  6. khalid says:

    hi i need map about iraq and think for you

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