The National Map Takes Advantage of Technological Advancements #TNMUC

by Matt Ball on May 12, 2011

The first-ever National Map User Conference is taking place today and tomorrow in Denver with a full-capacity crowd. The target was 350 attendees, but more than 400 have come, with 15 federal agencies, many states, academic institutions, and local governments. The event has been preceded by workshops, and has been an opportunity for national meetings for remote sensing and hydrography communities.

The goal is to communicate and strengthen the National Map, as awareness and communication has been an ongoing issue. With the theme, “Connect, Engage, Discover,” the event is a direct response to this outreach mission.

Mark DeMulder, director of the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Geospatial Program, kicked off the event with a “Status and Future” talk. To begin there was some reflection on the 10-year vision of the National Map, that was well before the beginning of Google Earth, Bing Maps and ArcGIS online. Today the agency partners and provides data to each of these online mapping environments through their data services.

Topographic map generation began again in 2008, and got into full production in June 2009. To date, the agency has produced more than 40,000 updated topographic maps at 1:24,000 scale and are well on their way to producing all 55,000 maps in the inventory in a three-year cycle.

Among the services of the National Map are:

  • Elevation data, with most of the $17 million stimulus funds that they received going toward acquisition of elevation with many partnerships with states and the acquisition of mostly lidar data
  • The National Hydrography Dataset is of particular pride as it is a networked data set that incorporates modeling and is the definitive authoritative dataset at a national scale.
  • The National Orthoimagery data service is a repository for high-quality imagery, with NAIP one-foot imagery, Landsat, and other imagery sources
  • Land Cover data of the nation includes tree canopy and impervious surface along with other classifications, and it’s seamless across all of North America through partnerships with Mexico and Canada

The National Map Viewer compiles cached services in OGC-compliant formats as well as serving these services to others. In addition to caching, there is also the ability to download data, and users have taken advantage of that to the tune of 400TB of downloads over the last year. DeMulder presented case studies for data download as well as for online visualization, drawing distinction between deeper analysis with downloads and communication with online visualization.

The use of GeoPDF for the US Topo was discussed with more than 420,000 downloads since June 9. The National Atlas is another resource that has been around for a much longer time than the National Map, with themed layers and cartographic products.

The USGS is also working on scanning all 250,000 historical maps that they hold with all editions to scale that will match the scale of US Topos, and with the ability to track change over time. Two-thirds of the project is done, with this process ongoing.

The research areas that are being pursued at the National Map are:

  • digital topo map design
  • generalization and data integration
  • cyberinfrastructure with cloud computing, VGI and social media
  • Ontology for better searches with a focus on the semantic web and gazetteers
  • and lots of work on data models for temporal, 3D, semantic, and features/events

DeMulder closed with the commitment to the community. They will communicate by keeping the community included and informed. They will engage to listen to concerns and ideas. They will discover by evolving content and processes to meet the needs of the community.



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