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The discipline of cartography is undergoing a number of profound changes that center on the emerging influence of digital manipulation and analysis of data. Perhaps the most fundamental distinction between the digital representation of cartographic data and the conventional printed graphic is the need to explicitly and unambiguously code the attributes and spatial relationships among the various data elements. It is also necessary to follow acceptable practices for automated data processing. These requirements have led to the development by the USGS National Mapping Division of several documents that establish in-house digital cartographic standards.
In an effort to fulfill lead agency requirements for promulgation of Federal standards in the earth sciences, the documents have been assembled with explanatory text into a USGS Circular. This Circular describes some of the pertinent issues relative to digital cartographic data standards, documents the digital cartographic data standards currently in use within the USGS, and details the efforts of the USGS related to the definition of national digital cartographic data standards. It consists of several chapters; the first is a general overview, and each succeeding chapter is made up from documents that establish in-house standards for one of the various types of digital cartographic data currently produced.