The LandScan global population database features the highest-accuracy population data available on the market and was developed at the United States Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The population data is broken down into three levels:

  • countries
  • first-level administrative boundaries (i.e. provinces, states)
  • square-kilometre cells

This dataset has a wide range of applications across numerous fields, including business, planning, health and humanitarianism, and more. Currently, available population data ranges from 2000 to 2012.

Spatial reference and data type

Data projection coordinates are Geographic, World Geodetic System (WGS) 84. The LandScan products include raw data files in raster format as well as a cloud-based web mapping service (WMS). Both the raw data files as well as the cloud-based web mapping service (WMS) can be used with Geographic Information System (GIS) software.

Data access

Raw data files in raster format can be accessed at the Geospatial Centre Reference Desk during reference hours. Alternatively, data through the cloud-based raw mapping service can be obtained through the library's Resources for research databases site. Library reference staff are available to provide further information about these data sets and to deliver data upon request. Under the terms of the Library's license agreement, these data sets are for use by students, faculty, and staff at the University of Waterloo only.

Sample data from web mapping service (WMS):

web mapping service (WMS) map shows population distribution within the United Kingdom

Data manipulation

There are public workstations in the Geospatial Centre that provide access to ArcGIS software programs, program extensions and data manipulation utilities. The LandScan database also comes with a set a custom tools for advanced querying and analysis. Patrons may use the custom tools as well as the GIS and image processing software in the library to view and manipulate the data. UWaterloo faculty, students and staff may copy these data for use elsewhere.

Data output

This image may be exported from ArcGIS in a choice of bitmapped formats (also known as raster graphics) including JPG, TIFF, GIF, and BMP or in a choice of vector graphics formats including Adobe Illustrator (AI), Encapsulated Postscript (EPS), and Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG). Data derivatives can also be exported as a PDF.

Use restrictions/licensing/copyright

These data are provided for personal use for academic, research, and/or teaching purposes. A data release agreement must be agreed to before these licensed data can be released. The United States Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory must be acknowledged on any derivative product, whether printed or electronic, including for example, a printed map, a raster or vector graphic, a web-based application, etc. Patrons are advised to fully respect the provisions of Canada's Copyright Act as well as terms and conditions imposed by the data provider.


LandScan global population database [computer file]: United States Department of Energy's Oak Ridge Laboratory, [2014].

Sample view of the data:

2011 world map shows population distribution (per square kilometre)

Data courtesy of the United States Department of Energy's Oak Ridge Laboratory