This project wields data from the Global Human Settlement Layer, which uses “satellite imagery, census data, and volunteered geographic information” to create population density maps.

In parts of the world where census data is unreliable (e.g., India, China), population density was visibly noisy on the maps.

Using this data for research purposes has a number of caveats, and most are very well detailed in this paper in the Journal of Maps by Duncan Smith.

The data is processed using Google Earth Engine (example script is here).

The visualization was inspired by Alasdair Rae’s blog posts, where he explained how to visualize snapshots of the data.

Enjoy this project? Support us on Patreon.

A more detailed explanation of the data processing is here.

Human Terrain

Visualizing the world’s Population, in 3D

Kinshasa is now bigger than Paris.
 Guangzhou, Hong Kong, and Shenzhen are
 forming an epic, 40 million-person super city.

Over the past 30 years, the scale of population change is hard to grasp. How do you even visualize 10 million people?


About this Project

Compare to 1990

Population Present Day

Show change, 1990-2015 ▪ Declinevs. ▪ Growth

Fetching Population Count...




Something about world cities.

Fly to Kinshasa


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