The MazamaSpatialUtils package was created by MazamaScience to regularize our work with spatial data. The sp, rgdal and maptools packages have made it much easier to work with spatial data found in shapefiles. Many sources of shapefile data are available and can be used to make beautfiul maps in R. Unfortunately, the data attached to these datasets, even when fairly complete, often lacks standardized identifiers such as the ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 encodings for countries. Maddeningly, even when these ISO codes are used, the dataframe column in which they are stored does not have a standardized name. It may be called ISO or ISO2 or alpha or COUNTRY or any of a dozen other names we have seen.

While many mapping packages provide 'natural' naming of countries, those who wish to develop operational, GIS-like systems need something that is both standardized and language-independent. The ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 encodings have emerged as the defacto standard for this sort of work. In similar fashion, ISO 3166-2 alpha-2 encodings are aviailable for the next administrative level down – state/province/oblast, etc.. For timezones, the defacto standard is the set of Olson timezones used in all UNIX systems.

The main goal of this package is to create an internally standardized set of spatial data that we can use in various projects. Along with two built-in datasets, this package provides 'convert~' functions for other spatial datasets that we currently use. These convert functions all follow the same recipe:

Other datasets can be added following the same procedure.

The 'package internal standards' are very simple. Every spatial dataset will have at least one of the following, consistently named colums of data:

If another column contains this data, that column must be renamed or duplicated with the internally standardized name. This simple level of consistency makes it posisble to generate maps for any data that is ISO encoded. It also makes it possible to create functions that return the country, state or timezone associated with a set of locations.


The core functionality for which this package was developed is determining spatial information associated with a set of locations.

Current functionality includes the following:

For those working with geo-located data, this information is key.

Standard Datasets and Setup

When using MazamaSpatialUtils, always run setSpatialDataDir('SOME_DIRECTORY') first. This sets the directory where spatial data will be installed and loaded from.

MazamaSpatialUtils has 2 built-in datasets:

Version 0.1 of the package is built around the two internal datasets and five other core datasets that may be installed:

These datasets are not included in the package. You must instead run initializeSpatialData() which will download each dataset into your data directory as .RData files.


# Set data directory to working directory

You may also install datasets individually.


Loading Datasets

Running initializeSpatialData() will also load each dataset into the environment. If you installed a dataset individually or are coming back to a project, load a dataset with the loadSpatialData(DATASET) function.


getCountry() and getCountryCode()

These two functions are used for finding which country one or many spatial points are in. getCountry() returns English country names and getCountryCode() returns the ISO-3166 two character country code. Both functions can be passed allData = TRUE which returns a dataframe with more information on the countries. You can also specify countryCodes = c(CODES) to speed up searching.

These functions use the package-internal SimpleCountries dataset which can be used without loading any additional datasets.

In this example we'll find which countries a vector of points fall in.


lon <- c(-122.3, -73.5, 21.1, 2.5)
lat <- c(47.5, 40.75, 52.1, 48.5)

getCountry(lon, lat)
## [1] "United States" "United States" "Poland"        "France"
getCountryCode(lon, lat)
## [1] "US" "US" "PL" "FR"
getCountry(lon, lat, allData=TRUE)
##   FIPS countryCode ISO3 UN_country   countryName        area
## 1   US          US  USA        840 United States 9.15896e+12
## 2   US          US  USA        840 United States 9.15896e+12
## 3   PL          PL  POL        616        Poland 3.06290e+11
## 4   FR          FR  FRA        250        France 5.50100e+11
##   population2005 UN_region UN_subregion longitude latitude
## 1      299846449        19           21   -98.606   39.622
## 2      299846449        19           21   -98.606   39.622
## 3       38195558       150          151    19.401   52.125
## 4       60990544       150          155     2.550   46.565

getState() and getStateCode()

Similar to above, these functions return state names and ISO 3166 code. They also take the same arguments. Adding the countryCodes argument is more important for getState() and getStateCode() because the NaturalEarthAdm1 dataset is fairly large. Lets use the same lat and lon variables as above and find out which states those points are in.

These functions require installation of the large NaturalEarthAdm1 dataset which is not distributed with the package.

# Load states dataset if you haven't already

# Get which countries the points are in
countryCodes <- getCountryCode(lon, lat)

# Pass the country codes as an argument to speed everything up
getState(lon, lat, countryCodes = countryCodes)

getStateCode(lon, lat, countryCodes = countryCodes)

# This is a very detailed dataset so we'll grab a few important columns
states <- getState(lon, lat, allData=TRUE, countryCodes = countryCodes)
states[c('countryCode', 'stateCode', 'stateName')]


Returns the Olsen Timezone where the given points are located. Arguments are the same as the previous functions. allData=TRUE will return other useful information such as the UTC Offset.

These functions use the package-internal SimpleTimezones dataset which can be used without loading any additional datasets.

# Find the timezones the points are in
getTimezone(lon, lat)
## [1] "America/Los_Angeles" "America/New_York"    "Europe/Warsaw"      
## [4] "Europe/Paris"
# Find which countries the points are in
countryCodes <- getCountryCode(lon, lat)

# Pass the country codes as an argument to potentially speed things up
getTimezone(lon, lat, countryCodes = countryCodes)
## [1] "America/Los_Angeles" "America/New_York"    "Europe/Warsaw"      
## [4] "Europe/Paris"
getTimezone(lon, lat, allData=TRUE, countryCodes = countryCodes)
##              timezone UTC_offset UTC_DST_offset countryCode   longitude
## 1 America/Los_Angeles         -8             -7          US -118.242778
## 2    America/New_York         -5             -4          US  -74.006389
## 3       Europe/Warsaw          1              2          PL   21.000000
## 4        Europe/Paris          1              2          FR    2.333333
##   latitude
## 1 34.05083
## 2 40.71167
## 3 52.25417
## 4 48.88111


Returns the US County which name pairs of coordinates fall in. The arguments are similar as above except that stateCodes=c() is used instead of countryCodes=c() since this dataset is US specific.

# Load counties dataset if you haven't already

# New dataset of points only in the US
stateCodes <- getStateCode(lon,lat)

# Optionally pass the state codes as an argument to speed everything up
getUSCounty(lon, lat, stateCodes=stateCodes)

getUSCounty(lon, lat, allData=TRUE, stateCodes=stateCodes)

Timezone Map

While identifying the states, countries and timezones associatated with a set of locations is important, we can also generate some quick eye candy with these datasets. Let's color the timezones by the data variable 'UTC_offset'

library(sp)         # For spatial plotting

# Assign timezones polygons an index based on UTC_offset
colorIndices <- .bincode(SimpleTimezones@data$UTC_offset, breaks=seq(-12.5,12.5,1))

# Color our timezones by UTC_offset
plot(SimpleTimezones, col=rainbow(25)[colorIndices])
title(line=-3,'Timezone Offsets from UTC')

Working with ISO 3166-1 Encoded Data

On of the main reasons for ensuring that our spatial datasets use ISO encoding is that it makes it easy to generate plots with any datasets that use that encoding. Here is a slightly more involved example using Energy data from the British Petroleum Statistical Review that has been ISO-encoded.

library(sp)         # For spatial plotting

# Read in ISO-encoded oil production and consumption data
prod <- read.csv(url(''),
                 skip=6, stringsAsFactors=FALSE, na.strings='na')
cons <- read.csv(url(''),
                 skip=6, stringsAsFactors=FALSE, na.strings='na')

# Only work with ISO-encoded columns of data
prodCountryCodes <- names(prod)[ stringr::str_length(names(prod)) == 2 ]
consCountryCodes <- names(cons)[ stringr::str_length(names(cons)) == 2 ]

# Use the last row (most recent data)
lastRow <- nrow(prod)
year <- prod$YEAR[lastRow]

# Neither dataframe contains all countries so create four categories based on the
# amount of information we have:  netExporters, netImporters, exportOnly, importOnly
sharedCountryCodes <- intersect(prodCountryCodes,consCountryCodes)
net <- prod[lastRow, sharedCountryCodes] - cons[lastRow, sharedCountryCodes]

# Find codes associated with each category
netExportCodes <- sharedCountryCodes[net > 0]
netImportCodes <- sharedCountryCodes[net <= 0]
exportOnlyCodes <- setdiff(prodCountryCodes,consCountryCodes)
importOnlyCodes <- setdiff(consCountryCodes,prodCountryCodes)

# Create a logical 'mask' associated with each category
netExportMask <- SimpleCountries@data$countryCode %in% netExportCodes
netImportMask <- SimpleCountries@data$countryCode %in% netImportCodes
onlyExportMask <- SimpleCountries@data$countryCode %in% exportOnlyCodes
onlyImportMask <- SimpleCountries@data$countryCode %in% importOnlyCodes

color_export = '#40CC90'
color_import = '#EE5555'
color_missing = 'gray90'

# Base plot (without Antarctica)
notAQ <- SimpleCountries@data$countryCode != 'AQ'


legend('bottomleft',legend=c('Net Exporters','Net Importers'),fill=c(color_export,color_import))
title(line=0,paste('World Crude Oil in',year))