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This Map Shows the Most Extreme Comparison of Population Density We’ve Seen

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You may have heard that the majority of the world’s population actually lives within a relatively small circle that covers China, India, Japan, and other parts of Southeast Asia.

That’s a pretty extreme example of population density – but here’s one that is even more impressive.

It’s quite simple actually: it compares parts of the most expansive regions (Canada, Russia, non-coastal USA, Greenland, Australia, and others) with a tiny chunk of land that holds close to 400 million people.

An Extreme Comparison of Population Density

The following image comes to us from Metrocosm, the website of data visualization expert Max Galka.

Bangladesh and three provinces in India, which are highlighted in red, take up just 160,000 sq. mi (415,000 sq. km) – that’s smaller than California. Together they hold more population than all of the blue territories on the map.

An Extreme Comparison of Population Density

That’s right, the blue area contains the entirety of many significant countries, such as Canada, Australia, Norway, Sweden, and Saudi Arabia. The blue even includes parts of China, the United States, and most of Russia.

Getting More Extreme

Here’s the kicker – the disparity is only getting more intense. Take a look at the following map of the fastest growing cities, showing the rate of new citizens per hour:

Fastest Growing Cities

Dhaka, the largest city in Bangladesh, is one of the fastest growing cities in the world with a growth rate of 74 people per hour. Kolkata (India) is also up there, adding 32 citizens every hour.

Meanwhile, the cities within the blue area of the original map do not have the same kind of growth happening at all.

For the Numbers Geeks

Here are the original calculations, from Metrocosm, for the blue and red areas of the original map in case you are interested. It’s worth noting that the data was retrieved in 2015, so it is slightly out of date.

The “Blue” Regions

JurisdictionRegionPopulation
CanadaAll35,010,000
Saudi ArabiaAll28,123,000
AustraliaAll22,280,000
RussiaSiberian Federal District19,254,300
NigerAll18,124,000
KazakhstanAll16,137,000
MaliAll14,478,000
ZambiaAll14,440,000
RussiaNorthwestern Federal District13,583,800
ChadAll12,620,000
RussiaUral Federal District12,082,700
BoliviaAll10,610,000
SomaliaAll10,295,000
SwedenAll9,437,000
BrazilPará8,073,924
Papua New GuineaAll7,440,000
ParaguayAll6,844,000
RussiaFar Eastern Federal District6,291,900
Libyan Arab JamahiriyaAll5,918,217
ChinaQinghai5,626,722
TurkmenistanAll5,411,000
FinlandAll5,408,000
NorwayAll4,985,000
IrelandAll4,804,000
New ZealandAll4,436,000
Central African RepublicAll4,191,429
BrazilAmazonas3,873,743
MauritaniaAll3,623,000
Republic of the CongoAll3,609,851
UruguayAll3,412,000
BrazilMato Grosso3,224,357
LithuaniaAll3,173,000
OmanAll3,110,000
ChinaTibet3,002,166
United StatesUtah2,942,902
United StatesKansas2,904,021
MongoliaAll2,809,000
BrazilMato Grosso do Sul2,619,657
NamibiaAll2,352,000
LatviaAll2,210,000
BotswanaAll2,068,000
United StatesNebraska1,881,503
BrazilRondônia1,748,531
ArgentinaMendoza1,741,610
United StatesIdaho1,634,464
GabonAll1,597,000
BrazilTocantins1,496,880
EstoniaAll1,338,000
ArgentinaSalta1,215,207
ArgentinaChaco1,053,466
United StatesMontana1,023,579
ArgentinaCorrientes993,338
CyprusAll911,000
ArgentinaSantiago del Estero896,461
United StatesSouth Dakota853,175
FijiAll828,046
BrazilAcre790,101
GuyanaAll757,000
BrazilAmapá750,912
United StatesNorth Dakota739,482
United StatesAlaska736,732
ArgentinaSan Juan680,427
ArgentinaJujuy672,260
ArgentinaRío Negro633,374
GreeceCrete620,000
United StatesWyoming584,153
ArgentinaNeuquén550,334
SurinameAll540,000
ArgentinaFormosa527,895
Western SaharaAll507,160
ArgentinaChubut506,668
BrazilRoraima496,936
Solomon IslandsAll472,419
ArgentinaSan Luis431,588
ArgentinaCatamarca367,820
BahamasAll360,000
IcelandAll347,000
BelizeAll335,000
ArgentinaLa Rioja331,847
FranceCorsica322,000
ArgentinaLa Pampa316,940
ArgentinaSanta Cruz272,524
VanuatuAll267,000
New CaledoniaAll266,000
French GuianaAll250,377
GuamAll165,124
ChileMagallanes y la Antártica Chilena159,152
ArgentinaTierra del Fuego, Antártida e Islas del Atlántico Sur126,190
MicronesiaAll103,549
KiribatiAll102,351
ChileAysén del General Carlos Ibáñez del Campo98,413
GreenlandAll57,475
Northern Mariana IslandsAll53,855
GalapagosAll25,000
PalauAll20,918
Falkland Islands (Malvinas)All3,000
SvalbardAll2,642
Norfolk IslandAll2,169
French Southern and Antarctic LandsAll0
South Georgia South Sandwich IslandsAll0

The “Red” Regions

JurisdictionRegionPopulation
BangladeshAll172,019,000
IndiaBihar99,000,000
IndiaWest Bengal90,320,000
IndiaJharkhand32,000,000

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Demographics

Visualizing 200 Years of U.S. Population Density

This animation shows the population density of U.S. counties between 1790 and 2010, showing the westward expansion of the country’s population.

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Visualizing 200 Years of U.S. Population Density

At the moment, there are around 326 million people living in the United States, a country that’s 3.5 million square miles (9.8 million sq km) in land area.

But throughout the nation’s history, neither of these numbers have stayed constant.

Not only did the population boom as a result of births and immigrants, but the borders of the country kept changing as well – especially in the country’s early years as settlers moved westwards.

U.S. Population Density Over Time

From a big picture perspective, here is how population density has changed for the country as a whole over the last 200 years or so:

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But today’s animated map, which comes to us from Vivid Maps, takes things a step further.

It plots U.S. population density numbers over the time period of 1790-2010 based on U.S. Census data and Jonathan Schroeder’s county-level decadal estimates for population. In essence, it gives a more precise view of who moved where and when over the course of the nation’s history.

Note: While U.S. Census data is granular and dates back to 1790, it comes with certain limitations. One obvious drawback, for example, is that such data is not able to properly account for Native American populations.

“Go West, Young Man”

As you might notice in the animation, there is one anomaly that appears in the late-1800s: the area around modern-day Oklahoma is colored in, but the state itself is an “empty gap” on the map.

The reason for this? The area was originally designated as Indian Territory – land reserved for the forced re-settlement of Native Americans. However, in 1889, the land was opened up to a massive land rush, and approximately 50,000 pioneers lined up to grab a piece of the two million acres (8,000 km²) opened for settlement.

While settlers flocking to Oklahoma is one specific event that ties into this animation, really the map shows the history of a much broader land rush in general: Manifest Destiny.

You can see pioneers landing in Louisiana in the early 1800s, the first settlements in California and Oregon, and the gradual filling up of the states in the middle of the country.

By the mid-20th century, the distribution of the population starts to resemble that of modern America.

Population Density Today

The average population density in the U.S. is now 92 people per square mile, although this changes dramatically based on where you are located:

If you are in Alaska, the state with the lowest population density, there is just one person per square mile – but if you’re in New York City there are 27,000 people per square mile, the highest of any major city in the country.

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Environment

The World’s 25 Largest Lakes, Side by Side

This unique map graphic uses the Great Lakes region as a point of comparison for the top 25 largest lakes in the world.

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The World’s 25 Largest Lakes, Side by Side

In many parts of the world, you don’t have to look very far to find a lake.

According to satellite data, there are roughly 100 million lakes larger than one hectare (2.47 acres) to be found globally. The largest lakes, which rival the size of entire nations, are more of a rarity.

One might expect the world’s largest lakes to be very alike, but from depth to saline content, their properties can be quite different. As well, the ranking of the world’s largest lakes is far from static, as human activity can turn a massive body of water into a desert within a single generation.

Today’s graphic – created using the fantastic online tool, Slap It On A Map! – uses the Great Lakes region as a point of comparison for the largest 25 lakes, by area. This is particularly useful in comparing the scale of lakes that are located in disparate parts of the globe.

The Greatest Lakes

The largest lake in the world by a long shot is the Caspian Sea – a name that hints at a past when it was contiguous with the ocean around 11 million years ago. This massive saline lake, which is nearly the same size as Japan, borders five countries: Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and Iran. An estimated 48 billion barrels of oil lay beneath the surface of the basin.

The five Great Lakes, which run along the Canada–U.S. border, form one of the largest collections of fresh water on Earth. This interconnected series of lakes represents around 20% of the world’s fresh water and the region supports over 100 million people, roughly equal to one-third of the Canada–U.S. population.

Amazingly, a single lake holds as much fresh water as all the Great Lakes combined – Lake Baikal. This rift lake in Siberia has a maximum depth of 5,371ft (1,637m). For comparison, the largest of the Great Lakes (Lake Superior) is only 25% as deep, with a maximum depth of 1,333ft (406m). Lake Baikal is unique in a number of other ways too. It is the world’s oldest, coldest lake, and around 80% of its animal species are endemic (not found anywhere else).

Here’s a full run-down of the top 25 lakes by area:

RankLake NameSurface AreaTypeCountries on shoreline
1Caspian Sea143,000 sq mi
(371,000km²)
Saline🇰🇿 Kazakhstan
🇷🇺 Russia
🇹🇲 Turkmenistan
🇦🇿 Azerbaijan
🇮🇷 Iran
2Superior31,700 sq mi
(82,100km²)
Freshwater🇨🇦 Canada
🇺🇸 U.S.
3Victoria26,590 sq mi
(68,870km²)
Freshwater🇺🇬 Uganda
🇰🇪 Kenya
🇹🇿 Tanzania
4Huron23,000 sq mi
(59,600km²)
Freshwater🇨🇦 Canada
🇺🇸 U.S.
5Michigan22,000 sq mi
(58,000km²)
Freshwater🇺🇸 U.S.
6Tanganyika12,600 sq mi
(32,600km²)
Freshwater🇧🇮 Burundi
🇹🇿 Tanzania
🇿🇲 Zambia
🇨🇩 D.R.C.
7Baikal12,200 sq mi
(31,500km²)
Freshwater🇷🇺 Russia
8Great Bear Lake12,000 sq mi
(31,000km²)
Freshwater🇨🇦 Canada
9Malawi11,400 sq mi
(29,500km²)
Freshwater🇲🇼 Malawi
🇲🇿 Mozambique
🇹🇿 Tanzania
10Great Slave Lake10,000 sq mi
(27,000km²)
Freshwater🇨🇦 Canada
11Erie9,900 sq mi
(25,700km²)
Freshwater🇨🇦 Canada
🇺🇸 U.S.
12Winnipeg9,465 sq mi
(24,514km²)
Freshwater🇨🇦 Canada
13Ontario7,320 sq mi
(18,960km²)
Freshwater🇨🇦 Canada
🇺🇸 U.S.
14Ladoga7,000 sq mi
(18,130km²)
Freshwater🇷🇺 Russia
15Balkhash6,300 sq mi
(16,400km²)
Saline🇰🇿 Kazakhstan
16Vostok4,800 sq mi
(12,500km²)
Freshwater🇦🇶 Antarctica
17Onega3,700 sq mi
(9,700km²)
Freshwater🇷🇺 Russia
18Titicaca3,232 sq mi
(8,372km²)
Freshwater🇧🇴 Bolivia
🇵🇪 Peru
19Nicaragua3,191 sq mi
(8,264km²)
Freshwater🇳🇮 Nicaragua
20Athabasca3,030 sq mi
(7,850km²)
Freshwater🇨🇦 Canada
21Taymyr2,700 sq mi
(6,990km²)
Freshwater🇷🇺 Russia
22Turkana2,473 sq mi
(6,405km²)
Saline🇰🇪 Kenya
🇪🇹 Ethiopia
23Reindeer Lake2,440 sq mi
(6,330km²)
Freshwater🇨🇦 Canada
24Issyk-Kul2,400 sq mi
(6,200km²)
Saline🇰🇬 Kyrgyzstan
25Urmia2,317 sq mi
(6,001km²)
Saline🇮🇷 Iran

Shrinking out of the rankings

Not far from the world’s largest lake, straddling the border between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, lay the sand dunes of the Aralkum Desert. In the not so distant past, this harsh environment was actually the bed of one of the largest lakes in the world – the Aral Sea.

Aral Sea receding 1960 2020

For reasons both climatic and anthropogenic, the Aral Sea began receding in the 1960s. This dramatic change in surface area took the Aral Sea from the fourth largest lake on Earth to not even ranking in the top 50. Researchers note that the size of the lake has fluctuated a lot over history, but through the lens of modern history these recent changes happened rapidly, leaving local economies devastated and former shoreside towns landlocked.

Lake Chad, in Saharan Africa, and Lake Urmia, in Iran, both face similar challenges, shrinking dramatically in recent decades.

How we work to reverse damage and avoid ecosystem collapse in vulnerable lakes will have a big influence on how the top 25 list may look in future years.

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