GMT is an open-source collection of command-line tools for manipulating geographic and Cartesian data sets (including filtering, trend fitting, gridding, projecting, etc.) and producing high-quality illustrations ranging from simple x–y plots via contour maps to artificially illuminated surfaces and 3D perspective views. It supports many map projections and transformations and includes supporting data such as coastlines, rivers, and political boundaries and optionally country polygons.


As of August 2016, GMT development and maintenance is being guided by a GMT Steering Committee, lead by Chair David Sandwell (Scripps) and members Dave Caress (MBARI), Steve Diggs (Scripps), Dan Bassett (GNS Science, New Zealand), and Khalid Soofi (ConocoPhillips).


GMT could not have been designed without the generous support of several people:

  • The founders (Wessel and Smith) gratefully acknowledge A. B. Watts and the late W. F. Haxby for supporting their efforts on the original version 1.0 while they were their graduate students at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

  • Doug Shearer and Roger Davis patiently answered many questions over e-mail.

  • The subroutine gauss was written and supplied by Bill Menke.

Further development was made possible by grants and fellowships:

  • National Science Foundation grants EAR-1829371, OCE1029874, OCE-0452126, OCE-0082552, OCE-9529431, and EAR-9302272.

  • Versions 2.0–2.1 would not have been possible without the support from the HIGP/SOEST Post-Doctoral Fellowship program to Paul Wessel.

  • Walter H. F. Smith gratefully acknowledges the generous support of the C. H. and I. M. Green Foundation for Earth Sciences at the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California at San Diego.


The GMT system was initiated in late 1987 at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University by graduate students Paul Wessel and Walter H. F. Smith. Version 1 was officially introduced to Lamont scientists in July 1988. GMT 1 migrated by word of mouth (and tape) to other institutions in the United States, UK, Japan, and France and attracted a small following. Paul took a Post-doctoral position at SOEST in December 1989 and continued the GMT development. Version 2.0 was released with an article in EOS, October 1991, and quickly spread worldwide. Version 3.0 in 1993 which was released with another article in EOS on August 15, 1995. A major upgrade to GMT 4.0 took place in Oct 2004. Finally, in 2013 we released the new GMT 5 series, which are generally backwards compatible with GMT 4 syntax. GMT is used by tens of thousands of users worldwide in a broad range of disciplines.

More detail on the history of GMT: