Open Source Geospatial Data

Versatile functionality of Geographic information system makes it popular in every domain. Here is the list for the top open source geospatial datasets available you should not miss out on.

Free GIS Data Sources: Best Global Raster and Vector Datasets

1. Esri Open Data Hub


Esri Open Data Hub

In this era, Esri stands out to be the gold mine of geospatial datasets. It is the hub of 250,000+ open data sets from over 5,000+ organizations worldwide. The data has spreadsheet, KML, shapefile format and API’s are OGC WMS, geojson and geoservice.

Though the data is not merged properly but with some efforts you can get explicit datasets from Esri Open Data Hub.

Esri Open Data

Here is the link to visit website

2. Natural Earth Data


Natural Earth Data

Natural Earth is a public domain map dataset available in scales of 1:10 m, 1:50 m, and 1:110 m. With tightly integrated vector and raster data, you can create a variety of visually pleasing, well-crafted maps with cartography or GIS software using Natural Earth.

It’s data can be utilised to create small scale maps  with neatness and it also provide data with attributes embedded like feature name, width attributes, river segment details etc.

Data type is Cultural, physical and raster (basemap) data with Quick start kit (MXD and QGS files) which includes all the essential stylized layers.


3. USGS Earth Explorer


USGS Earth Explorer

The USGS Earth Explorer has an abundance of satellite imagery to offer, no matter where you live:

It provides data for Landsat, Elevation and Hydrospectral imagery data is available on USGS Earth Explorer and can be downloaded easily.

LANDSAT: You can look back up to 40 years with Landsat data for any given place. Its unique history makes it different from other satellite imagery.

ELEVATION: Your point of interest for elevation is now one click away. Whether it is elevation, ASTER or SRTM, all are available on USGS Explorer. You just need to fine your tile on the planet.

HYPERSPECTRAL: You can explore hyperspectral imagery from Hyperion. This platform provides a rare opportunity.


4. Openstreetmap



Openstreetmaps highlights the local knowledge. To verify that OSM is accurate and up to date, contributors use aerial imagery, GPS devices and low-tech field maps.

The community of Openstreetmap is diverse, passionate and continues to grow every day. It has very good accuracy and data is coming from the place people like us works, Streets.

High spatial resolution cultural vector data such as buildings, roads, waterways is available in openstreetmap datasets.


5. Sentinel Satellite Data


Sentinel Satellite Data

Sentinel-2: It is most appropriate open data source available in open satellite imagery. It has the coverage span of entire globe with sharpest imagery available to download in present scenario. Its key features include two satellites with 10-meter resolution in red, green, blue and near-infrared, 12 spectral bands range from coastal to SWIR bands.

Sentinel 1: synthetic aperture radar (SAR) with C- band and it has endless potential for SAR data but the pictures aren’t pretty like Sentinel-2. To process the image download ESA’s open source Sentinel-2 Toolbox.

6. NASA’s Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC)



The Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) of NASA indicate human interactions with the environment. SEDAC has a wide variety of global, coarse, free GIS data.

Socio-economic data includes a variety of topics such as farming, climate and health and the data comes from 15 different themes.

Gridded Population of the World (GPW) data collection is the flagship product of SEDAC and Comprises of nine datasets incorporate border or population updates for 64 countries, additional centroid attributes and national identifier datasets, an updated water mask, and additional format and resolution options.


7. Open Topography


Open Topography

Open topography is a portal for the topographic data and tools of high spatial resolution. It mainly houses lidar data which is nowadays a rare, precious resource.

Coarse global DEMs are also available for free downloads. To get the datasets, you need to select the region in the world and search available lidar data.

8. UNEP Environmental Data Explorer


UNEP Environmental Data Explorer

Environment for development is the main agenda of UNEP Environmental Data Explorer. The Environmental Data Explorer is the primary source for data sets used in the Global Environment Outlook (GEO) study and other comprehensive environmental assessments by UNEP and its partners.

Over 500 different variables are included in online database, either as national, subregional, regional and global statistics or as geospatial data sets (maps), covering topics such as Freshwater, Population, Forest, Emissions, Environment, Disasters, Health and GDP. Shows them as maps, graphs, data tables on-the-fly or import the data in various formats.

9. NASA Earth Observations (NEO)



NASA’s Earth Observations (NEO) is like a real-time climate snapshot of the globe. NEO focuses on 5 themes with over 50 global datasets, mostly related to climate. Data ranges from aerosols, chlorophyll, to sea surface temperature and many more. Free GIS data sets that can be downloaded are in the formats JPEG, Geotiff and Google Earth.

Constant alerts by NEO provide accurate knowledge about our globe’s environment. The data is accessible in different GIS formats.

10. Terra Populus


Terra Populus

Terra Populus (short terrapop) incorporates data from census of more than 160 countries around the world. In reality, it spans household-level and aggregate data for more than 80 countries for up to six decades.

It has user-friendly interface with personalized delivery of temporal data. The data type includes micro and environmental information that explains land cover, land use and climate.

National Science Foundation and the University of Minnesota support and manages the updates of Terra Populus.

11. FAO geonetwork


FAO geonetwork

It is another portal from united nations which is available for GIS with wide range of categories and filter country wise.

The geonetwork focuses on promoting sustainable global growth. Global agriculture, food security, and fisheries, for example, are some of its primary, free GIS data.

12. Global Map Github

International Steering Committee for Global Mapping (ISCGM) portal archived their data to the Global Map Github.

global land cover and percent tree cover are the two key datasets available with ISCGM free GIS data. Also, cultural and natural vector datasets are in here.

Boundaries, drainage, transportation, population centers, elevation, land cover, land use and vegetation are the data types packed in with it.

Free Global DEM Data Sources

1. Space Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM)

The US government released the highest-resolution SRTM DEM to the public in late 2014. This global digital elevation model of 1-arc second has a spatial resolution of around 30 metres. It also covers most of the globe with an absolute vertical height accuracy of less than 16 m.

Data from SRTM DEM is stored on the USGS Earth Explorer. Select the area of interest you want to download. Select Digital Elevation > SRTM > SRTM 1-arcsecond Global, under the tab Datasets. But here’s a download guide to help you get started on the USGS Earth Explorer.

ASTER Global Digital Elevation Model

2. ASTER Global Digital Elevation Model

The birth of Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflective Radiometer (ASTER) was a joint project of NASA and Japan. The ASTER Global Digital Elevation Model (GDEM) emerged as part of that project.

ASTER GDEM-2 is considered to be a more accurate depiction of rough mountainous terrain than the SRTM elevation model.

The ASTER DEM data can be downloaded for free from the  USGS Earth Explorer under the data sets tab, select Digital Elevation > ASTER .

3. JAXA’s Global ALOS 3D World


JAXA’s Global ALOS 3D World

ALOS World 3D is a digital surface model (DSM) with a resolution of 30 metres, captured by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). This DSM was recently made freely accessible to the public.

The cool thing about this is that it is the most precise elevation data on a global scale now. It uses the Advanced Land Observing Satellite called “DAICHI” (ALOS) based on PRISM stereo mapping.

To download you’ll have to register online through the JAXA Global ALOS portal.

4. Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR)

You might think it’s a shot in the dark to find LiDAR. No, it’s not anymore. LiDAR datasets are now available for free on the following portals.


Light Detection and Ranging


• United States Inter-agency Elevation Inventory


NOAA Digital Coast


LIDAR Data Online



For spatial precision, nothing beats LiDAR. You can build an impressive DEM from LiDAR after you filter the returns from the ground.

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