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Technical Announcement:
25,000 Maps...and Counting

Map production milestone is recognized by the USGS
Released: 7/6/2010 6:00:00 AM

Contact Information:
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Office of Communication
119 National Center
Reston, VA 20192
Mike Cooley 1-click interview
Phone: 703-648-5528

Mark Newell 1-click interview
Phone: 573-308-3850

In response to the need for updated topographic maps, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has developed and made available a new national map series called the US Topo. Production of these maps began in earnest in June 2009. In a little over a year, the USGS National Geospatial Technical Operations Center (NGTOC) has published more than 25,000 7.5-minute cells. This equates to more than 2,000 maps per month, or nearly 100 per workday.

Through the second half of the 20th century, the USGS produced more than 60,000 paper topographic maps covering the entire United States. The median publication date for these maps is 1979. As such, the existing paper map collection is out of date and possibly not current enough for use by scientist, engineers, emergency responders, and the public, including recreational users.

To address this issue, the USGS began work on a new map product. These maps are modeled on the old topographic series, but are derived from the best available, existing government digital data, and are created semi-automatically using processes that will allow the entire contiguous US to be remapped every three years. Instead of printing and distributing paper copies, the entire US Topo collection is available as digital files and is distributed for free, through the Web, via the USGS Store.  Currently available US Topos and earlier “Digital Maps – Beta” are shown at http://nationalmap.gov/ustopo/.

In 2009, the initial product was a planimetric (no relief) map, which was called “Digital Map – Beta.” In 2010, the USGS began adding elevation contours and hydrography (lakes, rivers and streams) layers and rebranded the map series as US Topo. The USGS is on track to meet its goal of producing all new maps for the nation in three years.

US Topo maps do not have the handcrafted, artistic appearance of the original, manually produced topographic maps. However, they do include high-resolution color aerial imagery which provides visible content not available in the original map series. Future objectives include adding additional content, such as county boundaries and vegetation, while still achieving rigorous production goals. The rapid production cycle will soon eliminate the no-coverage and out-of-date map problems that are inherent in the original, paper map series.

Producing almost 100 maps of the required detail and quality every workday is remarkable achievement. The USGS National Geospatial Program workforce is proud of this accomplishment and looks forward to continued progress in meeting the nation’s need for current geospatial information.

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