Population centroids of the world administrative units from nighttime lights 1992-2013

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Knowledge about the past, current and future distribution of the human population is fundamental for tackling many global challenges. Censuses are used to collect information about population within a specified spatial unit. The spatial units are usually arbitrarily defined and their numbers, size and shape tend to change over time. These issues make comparisons between areas and countries difficult. We have in related work proposed that the shape of the lit area derived from nighttime lights, weighted by its intensity can be used to analyse characteristics of the population distribution, such as the mean centre of population. We have processed global nighttime lights data for the period 1992-2013 and derived centroids for administrative levels 0-2 of the Database of Global Administrative Areas, corresponding to nations and two levels of sub-divisions, that can be used to analyse patterns of global or local population changes. The consistency of the produced dataset was investigated and distance between true population centres and derived centres are compared using Swedish census data as a benchmark.


External organisations
  • Lund University
  • Västra Götalandsregionen
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Human Geography
Original languageEnglish
Article number235
Number of pages8
JournalScientific Data
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Oct 28
Publication categoryResearch