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GSHHG - A Global Self-consistent, Hierarchical, High-resolution Geography Database

As of version 2.2.2, GSHHG is released under the GNU Lesser General Public license.

The GSHHG is a high-resolution geography data set, amalgamated from two databases in the public domain: World Vector Shorelines (WVS) and CIA World Data Bank II (WDBII). The former is the basis for shorelines while the latter is the basis for lakes, although there are instances where differences in coastline representations necessitated adding WDBII islands to GSHHG. The WDBII source also provides all political borders and rivers. GSHHG data have undergone extensive processing and should be free of internal inconsistencies such as erratic points and crossing segments. The shorelines are constructed entirely from hierarchically arranged closed polygons.

GSHHG combines the older GSHHS shoreline database with WDBII rivers and borders, available for file download in either ESRI shapefile format or in a native binary format. The GSHHG geography data come in five different resolutions: crude(c), low(l), intermediate(i), high(h), and full(f). Shorelines are further organized into 4 hierarchical levels: boundary between land and ocean (L1), boundary between lake and land (L2), boundary between island-in-lake and lake (L3), and boundary between pond-in-island and island (L4). The primary GSHHG web site ( contains additional information.

Availability of the GSHHG data

More information about GSHHG

  • GSHHG is developed and maintained by

    Dr. Paul Wessel, SOEST, University of Hawai'i, Honolulu, HI. , and

    Dr. Walter H. F. Smith, NOAA Laboratory for Satellite Altimetry, National Oceanographic Data Center, Silver Spring, MD. .

  • Processing and assembly of the GSHHG data is described in:

    Wessel, P., and W. H. F. Smith, A Global Self-consistent, Hierarchical, High-resolution Shoreline Database, J. Geophys. Res., 101, #B4, pp. 8741-8743, 1996.

  • Please notify Dr. Paul Wessel and Dr. Walter H.F. Smith if any changes are made to the GSHHG data set for commercial use.