U.S. Geological Survey spatial data access

Journal of Geospatial Engineering

ORCID iD , , and



The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has done a progress review on improving access to its spatial data holdings over the Web. The USGS EROS Data Center has created three major Web-based interfaces to deliver spatial data to the general public; they are Earth Explorer, the Seamless Data Distribution System (SDDS), and the USGS Web Mapping Portal. Lessons were learned in developing these systems, and various resources were needed for their implementation. The USGS serves as a fact-finding agency in the U.S. Government that collects, monitors, analyzes, and provides scientific information about natural resource conditions and issues. To carry out its mission, the USGS has created and managed spatial data since its inception. Originally relying on paper maps, the USGS now uses advanced technology to produce digital representations of the Earth’s features. The spatial products of the USGS include both source and derivative data. Derivative datasets include Digital Orthophoto Quadrangles (DOQ), Digital Elevation Models, Digital Line Graphs, land-cover Digital Raster Graphics, and the seamless National Elevation Dataset. These products, created with automated processes, use aerial photographs, satellite images, or other cartographic information such as scanned paper maps as source data. With Earth Explorer, users can search multiple inventories through metadata queries and can browse satellite and DOQ imagery. They can place orders and make payment through secure credit card transactions. Some USGS spatial data can be accessed with SDDS. The SDDS uses an ArcIMS map service interface to identify the user’s areas of interest and determine the output format; it allows the user to either download the actual spatial data directly for small areas or place orders for larger areas to be delivered on media. The USGS Web Mapping Portal provides views of national and international datasets through an ArcIMS map service interface. In addition, the map portal posts news about new map services available from the USGS, many simultaneously published on the Environmental Systems Research Institute Geography Network. These three information systems use new software tools and expanded hardware to meet the requirements of the users. The systems are designed to handle the required workload and are relatively easy to enhance and maintain. The software tools give users a high level of functionality and help the system conform to industry standards. The hardware and software architecture is designed to handle the large amounts of spatial data and Internet traffic required by the information systems. Last, customer support was needed to answer questions, monitor e-mail, and report customer problems.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
U.S. Geological Survey spatial data access
Series title:
Journal of Geospatial Engineering
Year Published:
The Hong Kong Institution of Engineering Surveyors
Contributing office(s):
Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center
8 p.
Larger Work Type:
Larger Work Subtype:
Journal Article
Larger Work Title:
Journal of Geospatial Engineering
First page:
Last page:
United States