Two New Maps that Could Change the World

Maps have long been used by people to help navigate and understand our world. Early maps guided early humans to basic necessities such as food and water.

Today, the world is changing rapidly, and it’s difficult for traditional maps to keep up with the pace of that change. To help us keep pace with our evolving planet, we need something better. We need new, more comprehensive maps.

Esri has developed two new maps—the most detailed population map in the world and the most detailed ecological land unit map in the world—to help address the challenges we face and make our world a better place.

A New Map of World Population

Esri has compiled a human geography database of demographics and statistics about all countries in the world and has mapped this data using a new, innovative methodology.

Advances in technology are changing the type, quantity, quality, and timeliness of information available. The ideal human geography database would include uniform social and demographic information about all human populations on the globe. It would include population, household, housing unit, business, and economic information that would allow determination of societal characteristics at any scale from macro to micro.


Esri has developed the most detailed population map in the world.

Esri’s new world population map takes advantage of this new information to track and estimate populations to support better decision making. This new model of world population will allow comparative studies and accurate depiction of statistics to ad hoc areas. Population is modeled from imagery, road networks, and populated place locations to create an urbanization likelihood score.

“The global model is currently complete for approximately 130 countries, allowing for detailed reporting that will show the demographics for any desired geography such as a watershed, drive-time area, or an area affected by a disaster,” said Earl Nordstrand, Data Product Manager, Esri. “Additionally, the likelihood surface has been used to create a global population map by obtaining the latest census population data for the remaining areas of the world.”

A New Map of World Ecology

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and Esri recently announced the publication of the most detailed global ecological land units (ELUs) map in the world.

“The Global ELUs map portrays a systematic division and classification of the biosphere using ecological and physiographic land surface features,” notes Roger Sayre, Ph.D., Senior Scientist for Ecosystems, USGS.


Esri and USGS have developed the most detailed global ecological land units (ELUs) map in the world.

This exciting new global content provides a science platform for better understanding and accounting of the world’s resources.  Scientists, land managers, conservationists, developers and the public will use this map to improve regional, national and global resource management, planning and decision making.

“The ELUs provide an accounting framework to assess ecosystem services, such as carbon storage, soil formation, as well as risks such as, environmental degradation,” said Randy Vaughan, Manager of Content Engineering, Esri.  “The ELUs also lend themselves to the study of ecological diversity, rarity and evolutionary isolation.  For example we can identify whether the most diverse landscapes in terms of proximity to the most unique ELUs are protected. Understanding diversity can point the way to conservation and preservation planning.”

While ELUs do not definitively characterize ecosystems at multiple scales, they do provide information and pointers to the ecological patterns of the globe.  “They will be useful for constructing research agendas and for understanding global processes such as climate change,” added Sayre. “For example, the data will be important to the study of environmental change.  The automated approach to the objective classification of ELUs means that the mapping can be updated as better or more current input layers become available.”

Working Together

Separately, these two maps are important, and can be used in a variety of ways to address important local, regional, and global issues. Used together, these two new maps can give us an even better picture of the links between the human and natural components of our evolving world. “Population density and distributions are important indicator of both the demands and impacts on landscape,” said Vaughan.  “As such, population data can be used as another parameter to infer and understand the environmental processes expressed in the ecological land units.”


How can you get access to the Global population map?

  1. You can access the map here

How can you get access to the Global ELUs map?

  1. Introductory Story Map to the ecological land units:
  2. Explore the online application:
  3. Learn more about ecological land units:
  4. Get started using this content in ArcGIS: ArcGIS Online Landscape Layers Group

Spatial Accuracy of Climate Networks: A Case Study in Nebraska

C1 PAGE.inddJournal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology, Volume 53, Issue 8, August 2014

By Andrea J. Coop, Kenneth G. Hubbard, Martha D. Shulski, Jinsheng You, and David B. Marx

“Climate data are increasingly scrutinized for accuracy because of the need for reliable input for climate-related decision making and assessments of climate change. Over the last 30 years, vast improvements to U.S. instrumentation, data collection, and station siting have created more accurate data. This study explores the spatial accuracy of daily maximum and minimum air temperature data in Nebraska networks, including the U.S. Historical Climatology Network (HCN), the Automated Weather Data Network (AWDN), and the more recent U.S. Climate Reference Network (CRN). The spatial structure of temperature variations at the earth’s surface is compared for timeframes 2005-09 for CRN and AWDN and 1985-2005 for AWDN and HCN. Individual root-mean-square errors between candidate station and surrounding stations were calculated and used to determine the spatial accuracy of the networks. This study demonstrated that in the 5-yr analysis CRN and AWDN were of high spatial accuracy. For the 21-yr analysis the AWDN proved to have higher spatial accuracy (smaller errors) than the HCN for both maximum and minimum air temperature and for all months. In addition, accuracy was generally higher in summer months and the subhumid area had higher accuracy than did the semiarid area. The findings of this study can be used for Nebraska as an estimate of the uncertainty associated with using a weather station’s data at a decision point some distance from the station.”

Map Stories Can Provide Dynamic Visualizations of the Anthropocene to Broaden Factually Based Public Understanding

ARThe Anthropocene Review, Published Online 15 July 2014

By Andrew Zolnai

“Provision of broadly accessible and spatially referenced visualizations of the nature and rate of change in the Anthropocene is an essential tool in communicating to policy makers and to the wider public, who generally have little or no contact with academic publications and often rely on media-based information, to form and guide opinion. Three examples are used to demonstrate the use of geo-referenced data and GIS-based map compilations to provide accurate and widely accessible visual portrayals of historical processes.  The first example shows the spread of Neolithic agriculture from Mesopotamia west and north across Europe over several millennia. The second plots the history of the drainage of the Fens (wetlands) in eastern England from the early seventeenth century onward. A third example illustrates one way in which releasing data in the public domain can lead to the enhancement of public data holdings.

Data posted directly on the internet (Zolnai, 2012) from sources discussed in the text: this map story has the abstract at left, the map at centre and the legend at rig ht. It is a synoptic view putting all information in the line of sight along with its geographical context. Panning left and right or zooming in and out helps orient the reader and facilitate a better grasp of the details.

Data posted directly on the internet (Zolnai, 2012) from sources discussed in the text: this map story has the abstract at left, the map at centre and the legend at right. It is a synoptic view putting all information in the line of sight along with its geographical context. Panning left and right or zooming in and out helps orient the reader and facilitate a better grasp of the details.

“A concluding discussion outlines ways in which the methodology illustrated may be applied to processes key to understanding the Anthropocene.”

GIS Development to Monitor Climate Change and its Geohydrological Consequences on Nonmonsoon Crop Pattern in Himalaya

Computers & GeosciencesComputers & Geosciences, Published Online 17 May 2014

By Pradeep K. Rawat


  • Average temperature has been increasing with the rate of 0.07 °C/year
  • Average evaporation loss has been increasing with the rate of 4.03 mm/year.
  • Average rainfall has been decreasing with the rate of 0.60 mm/year.
  • Climate change accelerates drought hydrological problems during non-monsoon period.
  • In order to that the non-monsoon crops yield has been decreasing 0.60% by each year.

“The main objective of the study was to assess climate change and its geohydrological impacts on non-monsoon crop pattern at watershed level through GIS development on climate informatics, land use informatics, hydro-informatics and agro-informatics. The Dabka watershed constitutes a part of the Kosi Basin in densely populated Lesser Himalaya, India in district Nainital has been selected for the case illustration. This reconnaissance study analyzed the climatic database for last three decades (1982–2012) and estimates that the average temperature and evaporation loss have been rising with the rate of 0.07 °C/year and 4.03 mm/year respectively whereas the average rainfall has been decreasing with the rate of 0.60 mm/year. These rates of climate change increasing with mounting elevations. Consequently the existing micro climatic zones (sub-tropical, temperate and moist temperate) shifting towards higher altitudes and affecting the favorable conditions of the land use pattern and decreased the eco-friendly forest and vegetation cover.

(a) Sketch diagram of high underground water level, perennial springs and streams with thick vegetation cover and dense forests in their recharge zones during 1982-1990, (b) Poor underground water level due to deforestation in the recharge zones of the springs consequently number of perennial springs and streams dried up till 2011, (c and d) Spatial distribution of perennial springs and streams in Dabka watershed respectively during 1982-190 and 2005-2011.

(a) Sketch diagram of high underground water level, perennial springs and streams with thick vegetation cover and dense forests in their recharge zones during 1982-1990, (b) Poor underground water level due to deforestation in the recharge zones of the springs consequently number of perennial springs and streams dried up till 2011, (c and d) Spatial distribution of perennial springs and streams in Dabka watershed respectively during 1982-190 and 2005-2011.

“The land use degradation and high rate of deforestation (0.22 km2 or 1.5%/year) leads to accelerate several hydrological problems during non-monsoon period (i.e. decreasing infiltration capacity of land surface, declining underground water level, drying up natural perennial springs and streams, decreasing irrigation water availability etc.). In order to that the non-monsoon crops yield has been decreasing with the rate of 0.60% each year as the results suggest that the average crop yield is just about 58 q/ha whereas twenty five to thirty year back it was recorded about 66 q/ha which is about 12% higher (8 q/ha) than existing yield. On the other hand the population increasing with the growth rate of 2% each year. Therefore, decreasing crop yield and increasing population raised food deficiency problem and the people adopting other occupations which ultimately affecting rural livelihood of the Himalaya.”

NOAA and Esri Agreement to Broaden Understanding of Environmental Change

noaa_whiteNOAA’s New GIS Platform Will Increase Availability of Ocean and Weather Data and Applications

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently signed an enterprise license agreement with Esri, the world leader in GIS technology.

The agreement enables NOAA to continue building its GIS platform while maintaining data quality in bathymetry, climate and weather data, navigational charting, fisheries protection, natural resource management, marine planning, and other areas of its mission.

“NOAA now has the ability to increase access to Esri software and services that provide additional options for making NOAA data and applications available to all our constituencies and partners,” says Tony LaVoi, NOAA geospatial information officer. “We’re looking forward to the opportunities this presents to continue to grow our geospatial programs in NOAA.”

All NOAA employees now gain unlimited access to select Esri desktop and server products, including the powerful ArcGIS for Desktop, ArcGIS Spatial Analyst and 3D Analyst extensions, and ArcGIS for Maritime. In addition, NOAA staff members gain unlimited access to Esri’s Virtual Campus for online training, discounts on Esri technical support and classroom training, and complimentary passes to annual Esri user and developer conferences.

Another benefit of the agreement is a subscription to Esri’s ArcGIS Online. This benefit allows NOAA to quickly create interactive maps and applications and share these with the rest of the organization and the public.

“The agreement provides a foundation for the development of an enterprise geospatial program for NOAA, which will likely result in increased efficiencies across the organization, enhanced access to NOAA data and services, and a streamlined acquisition process,” states Joe Klimavicz, NOAA’s chief information officer (CIO).

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources.

For more information about enterprise license agreements, visit

[Source: Esri press release]

Climate Change and GIS: Resources for Action

Esri’s ArcGIS technology has a long history of driving environmental understanding and decision making. Policymakers, planners, scientists, and many others worldwide rely on GIS for data management and scientific analysis. GIS users represent a vast reservoir of knowledge, expertise, and best practices in applying this cornerstone technology to climate science, carbon management, renewable energy, sustainability, and disaster management.

Case Studies, e-Books, & White Papers


Big Data Visual Analytics for Exploratory Earth System Simulation Analysis

Computers & Geosciences, 61 (2013) pp.71–82

Chad A.Steed, Daniel M. Ricciuto, Galen Shipman, Brian Smith, Peter E.Thornton,
Dali Wang, Xiaoying Shi, and Dean N. Williams


  • EDEN is freely available and was developed in close collaboration with climate scientists.
  • EDEN employs interactive visualizations and statistical analytics for understanding of earth system simulations and climate change.
  • Bridges the growing gap between viable visualization techniques and real-world climate analysis.
  • Exploratory analysis of real-world CLM data sets using interactive parallel coordinates and other coordinated views augmented by statistical analytics.
  • Visualizations permit visually forming multi-faceted selections using information scent to guide the scientist to the most promising relationships.
“Rapid increases in high performance computing are feeding the development of larger and more complex data sets in climate research, which sets the stage for so-called “big data” analysis challenges. However, conventional climate analysis techniques are inadequate in dealing with the complexities of today’s data. In this paper, we describe and demonstrate a visual analytics system, called the Exploratory Data analysis ENvironment (EDEN), with specific application to the analysis of complex earth system simulation data sets.
An early version of EDEN is used to visually analyze a 1000 simulation CLM4 point ensemble data set with 81 parameters and 7 output variables on ORNL's EVEREST power wall facility which offers 11,520×3072 (35 million) pixels.

An early version of EDEN is used to visually analyze a 1000 simulation CLM4 point ensemble data set with 81 parameters and 7 output variables on ORNL’s EVEREST power wall facility which offers 11,520×3072 (35 million) pixels.

“EDEN represents the type of interactive visual analysis tools that are necessary to transform data into insight, thereby improving critical comprehension of earth system processes. In addition to providing an overview of EDEN, we describe real-world studies using both point ensembles and global Community Land Model Version 4 (CLM4) simulations.”

CLIMsystems to Unveil New Marine Climate Adaptation Mapping Tool and CMIP5 data for ArcGIS at 2013 Esri UC

CLIMsystems Ltd is dedicated to providing state-of-the-art climate adaptation and change risk assessment tools and services to a wide range of clients. They will be launching the new SimCLIM for Arc GIS/Marine to accompany the SimCLIM for Arc GIS/Climate solution on July 8th, 2013, at the Esri User Conference in San Diego, CA.

Climate adaptation is increasingly recognised as a factor to be considered across sectors such as infrastructure, agriculture, water resources, marine, conservation, biodiversity and disaster risk management. CLIMsystems wishes to put the knowledge, capability and climate-proofing capacity in your hands for conducting climate change risk and adaptation assessments.

CLIMsystems is proud to announce the release of the two new data sets and a new toolbar for ArcGIS Desktop. To follow on the successful launch of the SimCLIM for ArcGIS/Climate add-in earlier this year CLIMsystem announces SimCLIM for ArcGIS/Marine add-in. After extensive testing and end user review the new marine climate adaptation add-in is available in July 2013.

The new add-in includes nine key ocean variables:

  • sea surface temperature
  • pH
  • primary production
  • total alkalinity
  • dissolved oxygen, nitrate, phosphate, iron and silicate.

Baselines and general circulation model data is all derived from the most recent CMIP5 global models. The new marine add-in also includes the capacity for ensemble application and the 2.6, 4.5, 6.0, and 8.5 representative concentration pathways (RCPs). The tool and datasets represent a revolution in the provision of climate change marine data for a range of end users. Climate change and adaptation is impacting on the management of marine resources. The tool SimCLIM for Arc GIS/Marine ready to handle this uncertainty is now within the grasp of Esri Arc GIS® users.

The current SimCLIM for ArcGIS/Climate add-in has also been upgraded to include ensemble capabilities for the Unites States. Bias corrected, statistically downscaled data derived from the latest CMIP5 models with four RCPs is now available for the continental USA and as individual US states. It includes the variables of precipitation and minimum, mean and maximum temperature. Users have described SimCLIM for Arc GIS/Climate as an “easy to use tool which supports rapid integration of prospective scenarios. The creation of scenarios becomes much less time consuming which optimizes research costs and enhances our current capacity to achieve. In our industry, the greatest benefit would be for the GIS analyst supporting ecological studies.”

CLIMsystems can be visited during the Esri UC 2013 in San Diego from July 8th to 11th at the Environment Showcase (Hall C) at booth V1424, in the Map Gallery Upper Level in the Sails Pavilion on Monday the 8th from 3:30 to 8:00 pm, in their presentation in the Demo Theater of the Environment Showcase (Hall C) on Tuesday 9 July at 11:15 am and at the Paper Session Climate Change – Analysis and Adaptation on the Upper Level in Room 23C on 9 July at 8:30 am.

CLIMsystems, established in 2003, has an impressive international footprint delivering innovative climate modelling tools backed by high quality data processing capabilities. The science underpinning the models is supported by a prestigious scientific advisory panel of preeminent climate change scholars. The extensive network of Associates located around the world and affiliated with a range of stakeholder groups further strengthens the commitment and capacity for CLIMsystems to deliver high quality products and services for climate adaptation and risk assessment.

For more information on CLIMsystems products and services visit: or SimCLIM for Arc GIS/Climate Free Trail version and data sets are available from

[Source: CLIMsystems press release]

Mapping the Elevation Change of Lambert Glacier in East Antarctica using ICESat GLAS

Journal of MapsJournal of Maps, Volume 8, Issue 4, December 2012, pages 473-477

Dong Zhang, Bo Sun, Chang-Qing Ke, Xin Li, Xiang-Bin Cui & Jing-Xue Guo

“We initially derived elevation changes of Geoscience Laser Altimeter System level-2 altimetry data of Lambert Glacier overlapping footprints during each mission from 2003 to 2008. Then, surface elevation changes during every two adjacent missions were interpolated using inverse distance weighted, natural neighbor, triangulated irregular network with linear method, radial basis functions and ANUDEM in ArcGIS. The best results were obtained by ANUDEM, so these data were clipped to conform to the study area boundary defined by hydrology tools. Finally, elevation changes over 10 periods were mapped. In these maps, we chose the Antarctic digital elevation model as background and used a translucent layer to mask the area outside Lambert Glacier, and then displayed elevation changes using gradient colors. Results indicate that elevation changes of the entire Lambert Glacier are not evident, particularly in the upstream area. There are a few elevation changes in some downstream areas. Elevation of the grounding zone in the southernmost Amery Ice Shelf decreased more than 2 m in 2004–2005, 2006–2007, and during 2008.”

Spatial and Temporal Analysis of Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Selangor: Implication to Carbon Stock Above Ground

4th Conference on Data Mining and Optimization (DMO)4th Conference on Data Mining and Optimization (DMO), 02-04 September 2012

Syed Abdullah and Sharifah Mastura

“This paper aims to develop an operational methodology for monitoring spatial and temporal changes due to deforestation in Selangor over a 22 year period. The driving forces determining the changes were also analysed. Overall, the results show that the causes of deforestation were the economic factors, namely agriculture intensification, and population dynamics, related to the process of urbanization. However, deforestation statistics shows only a total of 10 percent decrease; it is the degradation of the remaining forest that is the major concern. Knowledge on deforestation and its driving forces in Selangor is very important as it provides the basis for the calculation of the total amount of carbon stock above ground. It also gives insight into the appropriate intervention measures that can be taken to increase carbon stock, thus reducing the release of carbon dioxide emission to the atmosphere.”