USGS tool allows users to explore mountains worldwide

October 24, 2017  - By
The Global Mountain Explorer. (USGS)

The Global Mountain Explorer. (USGS)

A new tool that gives users a detailed view of the world’s mountains is now available from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

The Global Mountain Explorer can help users ranging from hikers to scientists, resource managers and policy makers seeking information on these prominent yet often understudied landscapes.

Mountains occupy from 12 to 31 percent of the land surface of the Earth, but despite their importance, few attempts have been made to scientifically define and map these regions worldwide with detail, the USGS said.

The Global Mountain Explorer “allows anyone with access to the Internet to explore where mountains are, whether they are low or high, scattered or continuous, snowy or snow-free,” said USGS ecosystems geographer Roger Sayre, who led the project.

Mountain Explorer provides information from global scales down to specific mountains, such as Borah Peak, Idaho, pictured here. (Public domain)

Mountain Explorer provides information from global scales down to specific mountains, such as Borah Peak, Idaho, pictured here. (Public domain)

“Mountain Explorer users can visualize and compare in one place and for the first time the three major global mountain maps that have been produced,” he said.

Mountains provide significant water, timber and mineral resources, and food, fiber and fuel products. They are home to diverse ecosystems and wildlife and are valued for their esthetic beauty and recreational offerings.

Mountain areas are also prone to natural hazards. But despite their importance, surprisingly few attempts have been made to scientifically define and map these regions worldwide with detail.

The USGS developed the Global Mountain Explorer, in partnership with Esri, and three organizations at the University of Bern in Switzerland — the Center for Development and Environment, the Global Mountain Biodiversity Assessment and the Mountain Research Initiative.

Twilight image of snow-covered Mount Shasta with city lights visible at its base. The Global Mountain Explorer allows users to view mountains and surrounding terrain. (Public domain)

Twilight image of snow-covered Mount Shasta with city lights visible at its base. The Global Mountain Explorer allows users to view mountains and surrounding terrain. (Public domain)

The tool was developed as part of a Group on Earth Observations initiative to accurately delineate mountain regions using best available data. It is intended to provide information on the global distribution and a variety of mountain data with a resolution 16 times more detailed than previous mapping efforts.

Users can select an area by zooming in or by typing a place name like Mt. Kilimanjaro to view its elevation and type. They can also select from a number of backdrops — satellite images, topographic maps or political boundary maps— on which to display the different types of mountain classes. A tutorial showing the full features for the Global Map Explorer is shown below.

Tracy Cozzens

About the Author:

Tracy Cozzens has served as managing editor of GPS World magazine since 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.

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