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
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.
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.