Find Data

How to search and filter TheThirdPole's environmental database

There are a two main ways you can find data using this web. If you know what you are looking for, you can simply type in your query into the search box.

If you aren’t sure exactly what you are looking fo, or are interested to browsing the catalogue of data you can sort the database.

Layers can be sorted by topic, organisation, or location by selecting a check box on the sidebar.

TopicOrganization (Data Provider)Location
  •  Administrative Catagories
  •  Basin Boundaries
  • Cryosphere
  •  Deltas and Coasts
  •  Floods and Natural Disasters
  •  River Water Flow (discharge)
  •  Sanitation
  •  Surface Water Quality
  •  Water Infrastructure
  •  Water Usage / Utilization
  • Afghanistan
  • Bangladesh
  • Bhutan
  • Cambodia
  • China (Tibetan Plateau),
  • India
  • Laos
  • Myanmar
  • Nepal
  • Pakistan
  • Thailand
  • Vietnam

Each time you add a new filter, the results will be narrowed to match the criteria you specified. This means that checking multiple boxes will produce a dataset that matches all the criteria you have selected. 

Download Data

Available Formats for Download

Once you identify the dataset you would like to download, there are a variety of formats you can use depending on the final creation you are making. Here is where you can find the downloads section on each dataset page. 

GeoSpatial Data

This type of data is used to create maps. Each of the following file formats maintain location information and geometries in the file type. To open this file type you will need a GIS application.There are many application available. For people who like free software, we recommend using QGIS since it is mature and maintained open source software that is quite capable. 

Shapefile (.shp) - The shapefile is a common standard for representing geospatial vector data. Developed and regulated by Esri as a (mostly) open specification, the shapefile format spatially describes geometries as either 'points', 'polylines', or 'polygons'.  The shapefile is in fact a grouping of several files formatted to represent different aspects of geodata including:

  • .shp — shape format; the feature geometry itself.
  • .shx — shape index format; a positional index of the feature geometry to allow seeking forwards and backwards quickly.
  • .dbf — attribute format; columnar attributes for each shape, in dBase IV format.

KMLKeyhole Markup Language is a file format used to display geographic data in an Earth browser, such as Google Earth, Google Maps, and Google Maps for mobile. You can create KML files to pinpoint locations, add image overlays, and expose rich data in new ways. KML is an international standard maintained by the Open Geospatial Consortium, Inc. (OGC).

GeoJSON - is an open standard format for encoding collections of simple geographical features along with their non-spatial attributes using JavaScript Object Notation.The features include points (therefore addresses and locations), line strings (therefore streets, highways and boundaries), polygons (countries, provinces, tracts of land), and multi-part collections of these types. GeoJSON is quickly become a standard file format for web mapping applications and is supported by numerous mapping and GIS software packages, including OpenLayers, LeafletMapServer, Geoforge software, GeoServer, GeoDjango,GDAL,Safe Software FME, and CartoDB. It is also possible to use GeoJSON with PostGIS and Mapnik,both of which handle the format via the GDAL OGR conversion library. Bing MapsYahoo! and Google also support GeoJSON in their API services. 

Tiles (.wms) - Web Map Service (WMS) is a standard protocol for serving georeferenced map images over the Internet that are generated by a map server using data from a GIS database such as Using this feature, you can link TheThirdPole's pre-designed data layers using a simple HTTP interface to request map images into your mapping system without the need to download data or manipulate the design. 

Tabular Data

More simply put, these file types describe data that is stored in a table such as in a spreadsheet. The most clear feature of tabular data is having rows and columns. Tabular data is useful for the creation of charts and graphs since you can analyize statistics within the data's attributes. It is important to note that all of the files downloaded from this site can be linked to spatial data since location coordinates and geometries are preserved in the spreadsheet. 

Comma Seperated Values (.csv) CSV is a common, relatively simple file format that is widely supported by consumer, business, and scientific applications. Among its most common uses is moving tabular data between programs that natively operate on incompatible (often proprietary and/or undocumented) formats.  This works because so many programs support some variation of CSV at least as an alternative import/export format.

Excel (.xls)is a file extension for a spreadsheet file format created by Microsoft for use with Microsoft Excel. XLS stands for eXceL Spreadsheet. Microsoft Excel files use a proprietary format for storing Microsoft Excel documents.Thus .xls is useful mainly for analysis within Excel and lacks the flexibility of use characteristic of .csv.  LibreOffice Calc does support .xls and is free and open-source.  

Static Image 

Want a picture of a layer from Data.TheThirdPole? You can download images in standard formats for integrating into your publication or website. However, it is important to realize that this only creates a picture of the data and not the base map.

Image (.jpg)  JPEG is a compressed image file format. JPEG images are not limited to a certain amount of color, like GIF images are. Therefore, the JPEG format is best for compressing photographic images. So if you see a large, colorful image on the Web, it is most likely a JPEG file.

PDF- Portable Document Format is a file format that provides an electronic image of text or text and graphics that looks like a printed document and can be viewed, printed, and electronically transmitted. 




Use Data

Tips and places to find more information on how to use GeoSpatial data

Journalists cannot complain about the lack of data when they have to report about the Earth. Scientists have been collecting information about our environment in so many forms, for so many years, that dealing with quantity is more of a problem than suffering from scarcity.However, learning how to turn data into interesting stories backed up by compelling visual evidence is a different challenge. 

Data.theThirdPole is a online geospatial database focused on providing access to useful data in a diversity of file formats that can be used in a variety of visualization applications. Weither your goal is to create a map, infographic, or chart, each creation has their own unique set of tasks, applications, workflows and documentation. If you are in need of help turning material cataloged on Data.theThridPole, there are numerous helpful tutorials and free online course that have been developed to help journalists use data as a part of their storytelling. The following list is a good starting point: 


Data Driven Journalism is one of the leading initiatives for training, resources and networking in the area of data journalism. Founded in 2010, the program= is dedicated to accelerating the diffusion and improving the quality of data journalism around the world, whether the focus is on investigations, news applications, putting news into context, or simply using data to inform and assist journalistic work.

The Data Journalism Handbook

Dubbed the “bible” of data journalism, the handbook is a reference book on how journalists can use data to improve their work, with contributions from the New York Times, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the BBC, the Chicago Tribune, Deutsche Welle, the Guardian, the Financial Times, La Nacion, ProPublica, the Washington Post, Zeit Online and many others. Produced in collaboration with the Open Knowledge Foundation and published by O’Reilly Media, the book is used in newsrooms across the world as well as in universities in journalism, statistics and graphic design courses alike. The book is available in English, French, Russian, Spanish and Ukrainian. 

GeoJournalism Handbook

His online collection of tutorials is tailored toward solving issues faced by environmental journalists in their coverage of a rapidly changing planet. This handbook focused each tutorial on a project or task completed by an professionals journalists whose using data in their storytelling. Each step is outlined with explanation of technical tools used, a glossary of important terms, and links to external documentation.

School of Data

The School of Data aims to make your learning experience as tailored as possible through independent learning modules. Learning modules are all stand-alone and can be taken in any order. To make your learning experience easier, School of Data has curated modules into a series of courses - with a focus on data basics as well as specific skills.