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Web Map Service

Retrieve map data from Web Map Service (WMS) servers

Web Map Service (WMS) provides visualization of publicly accessible geospatial information from Web-based sources.Web Map Service (WMS) servers follow a standard developed by the Open Geospatial Consortium, Inc.® (OGC) and provide access to a wealth of geospatial information. With maps from WMS servers, you can:

  • Use any publicly available WMS data

  • Easily adjust colors and styles to more clearly display information

  • Update your map to reflect the most recent data

  • Share your map with others

Mapping Toolbox™ software simplifies the process of WMS map creation by using a stored database of WMS servers. You can search the database for layers and servers that are of interest to you.

As an example, the WMS Global Mosaic map (on the left) displays data from Landsat7 satellite scenes. The Ozone Effect on Global Warming map (on the right) displays data from the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) computer model study.


wmsfindSearch local database for Web map servers and layers
wmsinfoInformation about WMS server from capabilities document
wmsreadRetrieve WMS map from server
wmsupdateSynchronize WMSLayer object with server


WebMapServerWeb map server
WMSCapabilities Web Map Service capabilities document
WMSLayer Web Map Service layer
WMSMapRequest Web Map Service map request


Basic WMS Workflow

Basic WMS Terminology

Learn about common terms encountered when working with Web Map Service (WMS), such as layers, capabilities documents, and WMS servers.

Basic Workflow for Creating WMS Maps

To create a WMS map, search the WMS database for useful servers and layers, request the most recent data of an interesting layer, and display the data.

Search the WMS Database

The WMS Database released with the Mapping Toolbox includes over 1,000 stored WMS servers and over 100,000 layers. You can search this database for specific fields.

Refine Your Search

Refine your search by text or geographic limits to quickly find the most relevant layers.

Update Your Layer

This example shows how to synchronize a layer found in the WMS Database with the WMS source server.

Modify Your Map Request

This example shows how to modify the geographic extent and time of the requested map.

Retrieve Your Map

In most cases, you can retrieve a map from a WMS server by providing a layer or map request URL .

Additional WMS Interactions

Save Your Favorite Servers

This example shows how to save your favorite layers for easy access in the future.

Explore Other Layers using a Capabilities Document

This example shows how to explore other layers in a WMS server.

Search for Layers Outside the Database

This example shows how to search for layers by using your Web browser.

Overlay Multiple Layers

These examples show how to merge multiple layers from one WMS server into a single raster map

Animating Data Layers

These examples show how to create maps of the same geographic region at different times and view them as a movie.

Display Animation of Radar Images over GOES Backdrop

This example shows how to display NEXRAD radar images over a backdrop from the Geostationary Satellite.

Retrieve Data from Web Map Server

These examples show how to retrieve a quantitative data grid and how to display it as a surface, rather than as an image.

Write WMS Images to a KML File

This example shows how to render a map in a non-image format.

Host Your Own WMS Server

You can host your own WMS server and share the maps you create with others.

Troubleshoot WMS Servers

Investigate common WMS server errors and suggested workarounds.

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