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ISLSCP II Historical Land Cover and Land Use, 1700-1990
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Revision date: February 23, 2010


The Historical Land Cover and Land Use data set  consists of two files, and was developed to provide the global change community with historical land use estimates. The data set describes historical land use changes over a 300-year historical period (1700-1990).

Testing against historical data is an important step for validating integrated models of global environmental change. Owing to long time lags in the climate and biogeochemical systems, these models should aim to simulate the land use dynamics for long periods, i.e., spanning decades to centuries. Developing such models requires an understanding of past and current trends and is therefore strongly data dependent. A historical database of the global environment (HYDE) was used to determine historical statistical inventories on agricultural land (census data, tax records, land surveys, etc) and different spatial analysis techniques were used to create a geographically-explicit data set of land use change, with a regular time interval.

Additional Documentation:

This data set is one of the products of the International Satellite Land-Surface Climatology Project, Initiative II (ISLSCP II) data collection, which contains 50 global time series data sets for the ten-year period 1986 to 1995. A complete description of the data, their derivation, acknowledgements, and references provided by the ISLSCP II Data Management Staff is included with this data set as a companion file named 1_historic_landcover_doc.pdf.

ISLSCP II is a consistent collection of data sets that were compiled from existing data sources and algorithms, and were designed to satisfy the needs of modelers and investigators of the global carbon, water and energy cycle. The data were acquired from a number of U.S. and international agencies, universities, and institutions. The data and documentation have undergone two peer reviews.

ISLSCP is one of several projects of Global Energy and Water Cycle Experiment (GEWEX) [] and has the lead role in addressing land-atmosphere interactions -- process modeling, data retrieval algorithms, field experiment design and execution, and the development of global data sets.


Data Citation:

Cite this data set as follows:

Goldewijk, K.K. 2010. ISLSCP II Historical Land Cover and Land Use, 1700-1990. In Hall, Forest G., G. Collatz, B. Meeson, S. Los, E. Brown de Colstoun, and D. Landis (eds.). ISLSCP Initiative II Collection. Data set. Available on-line [] from Oak Ridge National Laboratory Distributed Active Archive Center, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, U.S.A. doi:10.3334/ORNLDAAC/967


File Information:

The archived data sets for ISLSCP II have been organized by categories. This data set is in the vegetation category--a collection of vegetation and albedo data sets.

Data Set Spatial Extent: Global gridded

Westernmost Longitude: -180 W

Easternmost Longitude: 180 E

Northernmost Latitude: 90 N

Southernmost Latitude: -90 S

Projection: Geographic

Data Set Spatial Resolution: half and one degree in both latitude and longitude

Data Set Temporal Extent: 1700 through 1990

Data File Format

All of the data files in each data set within the ISLSCP Initiative II data collection are in ESRI ASCII GRID format for ArcInfo. The file format consists of numerical fields of varying length, which are delimited by a single space and arranged in columns and rows.

The data files have been combined according to spatial resolution: 1 degree and  half degree, respectively.



The names of the individual files in each zip file above use the following naming convention:

Data file naming conventions are described in the 0_historic_landcover_readme.txt

Land cover/use classes are assigned the values below (note that values 3 and 4 are non-existent):

Class # Biome Type
0 Oceans/Water
1 Cultivated land
2 Pasture/land used for grazing
5 Ice
6 Tundra
7 Wooded tundra
8 Boreal forest
9 Cool conifer forest
10 Temperate mixed forest
11 Temperate deciduous forest
12 Warm mixed forest
13 Grassland/Steppe
14 Hot desert
15 Scrubland
16 Savanna
17 Tropical woodland
18 Tropical forest
19 No data over land (e.g. Antarctica)

Data Access:

These data are available through the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) Distributed Active Archive Center (DAAC)  [].

Data Archive Contact Information:

Telephone: +1 (865) 241-3952