LandScan Global Population Database

Frequently Asked Questions

If you are accessing LandScan through East View’s web application, no additional software is needed, only a web browser. All major web browsers are supported. Best performing browsers for web mapping applications include Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome and IE9+.

The data is provided in a hard copy format which is digestible in any GIS software that allows the user to import ESRI GRID-formatted data. The WMS and WCS are links to the data hosted on East View Geospatial’s servers for organization-wide 24/7 access and can be used with most current GIS software. The data files are also provided in a Raster Binary format. Almost any programming language can read this file directly. See also “What data formats are used?” below.

The data files are also provided in the ESRI Raster Binary format. Almost any programming language can read this file directly. See also “What data formats are used?” below.

A WMS and WCS are specifications that were developed by the Open Geospatial Consortium in 1999 for publishing of GIS data over the web. These protocols allow for access of GIS data over the Internet.

A Web Map Service (WMS) is a standard protocol for serving georeferenced map images over the Internet (http link) that are generated by a map server using data from a GIS database. A WMS is similar to Bing Maps or Google Earth where the user can view the data and implement simple spatial queries on the underlying data. No extraction or processing of the data is available through a WMS.

Web Coverage Service (WCS) provides an interface allowing requests for geographical coverages across the web using platform-independent calls. The coverages are objects (or images) in a geographical area, whereas the WMS interface or online mapping portals like Google Maps return only an image, which end-users cannot edit or spatially analyze. A WCS is essentially a live link to the data which allows you to symbolize and run processing on the data as if it was stored on your local hard drive. A WCS allows the users to extract the data and keep it locally for their own use.

Yes, we have global data as well as sets by world regions and individual countries.

Included with the data is ORNL produced metadata and various readme files which explain the data and updates.

The LandScan Dataset is not projected, but can be used as a “Geographic” projection with various GIS software packages (e.g., ERDAS and ESRI). The data are referenced by latitude/longitude (WGS84) coordinates.

The dataset values are people per cell.

The “Value” field in the database table contains the number of people per cell. This is a population count per cell, not a population density.

The “Count” field in the database table contains the number of cells that have the same population count as the cell of interest.

When a new version of the LandScan dataset is available, the previous version is archived. To get access to the most up-to-date dataset, users will need to purchase to new version to access. The previous years are available through East View as an archive product and include the datasets back to the year 2000 edition.

Yes, historical LandScan Global datasets, dating back to the year 2000, are now available through an archive purchase. The raw population data can be used in GIS applications and the WebApp will provide easy access for non-GIS users to view and analyze the data online. Contact for more information.

Datasets used in the development of the LandScan Global Population Dataset are not available. During the development of the population database Oak Ridge National Laboratory uses datasets that are provided by many sources and for which there are no redistribution rights.

ESRI grid format. The archive contains grids for the world and each of the six continents, excluding Antarctica. Each of the archive files contains two folders, an ArcInfo GRID folder and an INFO folder. Both folders must be extracted from the archive file into one new folder.

ESRI binary format. The archive contains contains raster binary data for the world and a rich text formatted file that describes the binary format. The binary raster file format is a simple format that can be used to transfer raster data among various applications. Almost any programming language can read this file directly.

For both formats, downloaded files need to be uncompressed using a standard Zip utility (e.g., WinZip, PKZIP, etc.) before they can be imported to GIS or other software. Users should expect a substantial increase in the size of downloaded data after uncompression.

The dataset includes four layers:

  1. country level demographic data
  2. 1st level admin demographic data
  3. pixel (1km x 1km) level population data
  4. an area calculation layer

The country and 1st level admin level data include demographic data such as age, gender and age by gender population breakdowns. The pixel level data contains a total ambient population value for each cell. All data is georeferenced in the geographic projection WGS 1984. Included with the data is a toolbox for use with ESRI’s spatial analyst extension (helpful but not necessary) as well as pre-symbolized layer files to use for symbolizing the data.

We do not recommend converting the GRID data into a shapefile containing polygons because “people” are lost during the conversion. If users must convert the data from grid format to feature format, we recommend converting to a point file. This way each point represents the cell total as maintained in the GRID format.

The links below contain instructions for calculating population density:

Using ESRI ArcView 3.x with the Spatial Analyst extension
Using ESRI ArcMap with the Spatial Analyst Extension

For users of the East View online version of LandScan, contact If you are a U.S. Government user, contact and/or

This product was made utilizing the LandScan (insert dataset year)™ High Resolution global Population Data Set copyrighted by UT-Battelle, LLC, operator of Oak Ridge National Laboratory under Contract No. DE-AC05-00OR22725 with the United States Department of Energy. The United States Government has certain rights in this Data Set. Neither UT-BATTELLE, LLC NOR THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY, NOR ANY OF THEIR EMPLOYEES, MAKES ANY WARRANTY, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, OR ASSUMES ANY LEGAL LIABILITY OR RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE ACCURACY, COMPLETENESS, OR USEFULNESS OF THE DATA SET.

Although previous year datasets are available, researchers should be aware that the data should not be used as a change detection or migration tool. Input data sets are constantly improving which in turn cause changes in the population distribution, so a cell by cell comparison between LandScan database releases will not be an accurate assessment of the data.

For instance, higher-resolution data depicting populated places (towns or villages) may be loaded into this year’s version, which did not exist in the digital representation of the area at a coarser scale. Of course the people were there all along, but may just “show up” in the latest version of the distribution.

In other cases there may be a more refined administrative boundary file used as a population control total boundary. These new boundaries may cause the population distribution within them to shift from an earlier version with a coarser boundary.

In some cases actual census counts associated with an administrative area may have been transposed with a nearby administrative area somewhere in the process. Correcting these types of errors also cause the population distribution to shift.

For these reasons users should be aware that the comparisons between LandScan versions will not be accurate (“migrations” are not taking place).

Contact if you have any additional questions.

Have more questions?