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Free geoscience data sources available online

by Natalie Green on April 16, 2012 library

Many exploration projects start, and/or are advanced, with regional datasets distributed by government geological surveys and other organizations. As provincial, national and international governments continue to strive to make their valuable data instantly available on-line, explorers are able to integrate the information to focus their projects and provide new insights into a prospective area. In this article we have collected some of the online geoscience data sites that we've visited and used for projects. Send us data sources that you've found useful, and we'll update the list with reader favorites.

Natural Resources Canada's Geoscience Data Repository (GDR) for Geophysical and Geochemical Data has grown immensely since first releasing national aeromagnetic compilation grids in early 2004. It's a great source for regional and survey scale datasets, if you're working in Canada. The entire Aeromagnetic Data Base, both profile and gridded data, is available and integrated with metadata. Protocols for access to GDR data include Geosoft DAP, and WMS GetCapabilities.

Many global scientific and government organization host data online, or you can order it (sometimes for a small fee). A few that I have used include: Geoscience Australia - this site has many geophysical and geological datasets; USGS EROS Center - links to several data discovery tools; NOAA National Geophysical Data Center -includes Data by Discipline links to some great resources; and USGS LP DAAC - links to resources for ASTER data.

Provincial and state geoscience surveys are also a great source of geoscientific data.  I recently attained a copy of New South Wales' Explorers Directory 2012 with GIS data in Esri and MapInfo formats and a great selection of imagery. The Geological Survey of New South Wales posts newly available data products on their website.  For cultural and geographic data, the datasets provided with Esri and MapInfo applications are a good start. In the US, data.gov has a growing collection of spatial data in many formats.

Compilations are often sponsored by a group of government and educational groups to make data publicly available and easily accessible, including numerous programs like Geomagnetism, a NOAA/CIRES project;  OneGeology, an international effort to collect geological data at 1:1 million scale; and ASTER GDEM, a joint NASA JPL program to collect high resolution ASTER data for the world.

Service and technology providers are another source of data. Geosoft hosts a public DAP Server with SRTM data and other large, low-res datasets available for free download. Datasets can be windowed and reprojected and reformatted as needed with little effort.