Alternatives to GIS Data During the U.S. Government Shutdown

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The U.S. Government shutdown has led to the unfortunate darkening of many of its sites.  Many sites that offer sources of GIS data have been shuttered.  Many of these government sites like the USGS, Census Bureau, NASA, NOAA, USDA, and are invaluable sources of geospatial information.

Only sites like from NOAA are online because “the information this site provides is necessary to protect life and property, it will be updated and maintained during the Federal Government shutdown.”

Similarly, while the main site is down, critical sections of the USGS (as noted on the shutdown notice for that site) are still live such as: Disease Mapscoastal erosion hazards information, earthquake information, emergency operations portal, geomagnetic activity, landslide informationvolcano information, and water.  Likewise, FEMA’s GIS section is still operational.

Visitors to most US Government sites will see this notice in some form.
Visitors to most US Government sites will see this notice in some form.

The inaccessibility of US data is impacting not only businesses and other government agencies that rely on the geospatial data, but also many university GIS courses are set up around using those free sources of GIS data for class exercises.

Alternative GIS Data Sources

So what alternatives are there for accessing and downloading GIS data during the government shutdown?  If you have a link for a site that is hosting US geospatial data during the shutdown, send the information to and it will be updated here.

Esri has posted about the availability of US Government GIS data on its ArcGIS Online service.  Some of the list datasets include US Census population and TIGER files, multi-spectral imagery, USDA agricultural data, soils, land cover, and labor data.

The Wayback Machine which archives snapshots of web sites offers access to shuttered US Government sites although I haven’t been able to test if access to data downloads is possible (I would think probably not).

Code for America has a list of select US Census TIGER files hosted by OpenStreetMap US Foundation via the Oregon State Open Source Lab.  The data includes nationwide  boundary files (state and county boundaries) as well as 2013 detailed state files for the blockgroup, places, blocks and tracts levels.

Other GIS data warehouses can provide archives of historical US data such as the National Historical Geographic Information Systems (NHGIS) which provides “free of charge, aggregate census data and GIS-compatible boundary files for the United States between 1790 and 2012.”

Natural Earth provides free prepackaged global GIS data sets at a variety of scales.  The data is available in vector and raster formats at scales of 1:10m, 1:50m, and 1:110 million.  The site offers public domain data for a variety of areas including cultural, administrative, and physical GIS data.

WeoGeo offers a range of free GIS data options which includes US government data such as USGS topographic maps and TIGER data.

Also check with local government and statewide agencies for localized data sources.  Many state agencies offer federal data cropped to the state level.

GPS Post Processing Services

Even those that GPS to collect their own geospatial data are being impacted by the shutdown.   The National Geodetic Survey’s Online Positioning User Service (OPUS) which provided a free online GPS post-processing service is shut down.  GPS World lists seven alternative GPS post-processing services in lieu of using OPUS.

In addition, NOAA is providing limited CORS GPS data for areas impacted by Tropical Storm Karen.



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3 thoughts on “Alternatives to GIS Data During the U.S. Government Shutdown”

  1. What about recognizing the value you place on having this data available to do your work. These are not being maintained -especially if they are snapshots. It is time to stand up and say something about the value you get from having thus data available and why you vale the work and products you get from the Federal workforce. Speak up! Speak out! These are essential employees and services you value.

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