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Source for Physiographic Features in Basemap?

August 28 2009 | 2 comments
Categories: Map Data

I am preparing to create a basemap that is similar to the ArcGIS Online World Topographic Map. In order to do this, I would like to label the physiographic features in the map. I found the physiographic areas download available through the mapping center (ArcGIS Resources > GIS Data) and it appears to be very coarse for my area of interest (greater Pacific Northwest). What I would like to find out is the source of the physiographic labels for your World Topographic Map, which appear to be much more detailed than the available download. Thank you.

Mapping Center Answer:

The source is the USGS Topographic maps--we at ESRI have been using the ArcGIS Online service as a basis to digitize polygons that roughly cover the extent of each feature.  Then we run a geoprocessing tool I wrote (it's shared on ArcScripts at: which assigns a size code (1-20) and a shape type, which is used to tell Maplex which placement type to use.

At the time we produced the annotation for the topographic map (February/March), we had ~17,000 features captured and QA'd.  Since then, we've continued to capture these features, and have over 100,000 now and have completed work in California.  The USGS estimates there are about 250,000 such features based on GNIS.  We're working with USGS to do a stronger QA process that will also incorporate the GNIS ID with these features and that will give the additional benefit of identifying which features have "politically corrected" names now.  We used to have a lot of landform names that combined racial or anatomical terms in ways that are now deemed offensive (some of them were offensive all along).

Since work is still ongoing, and we have done more work in non-U.S. countries as well, we have not released this dataset.   


Timeframe? posted by Brett Holycross on Aug 28 2009 10:16AM
Thanks for the quick answer! Do you have an idea when this updated dataset may become available? Is there anyway to obtain the data as-is right now?

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