Spatial population and urban growth modeling

Contact: Brian O'Neill

New methods and projections are being developed to anticipate possible future changes in the spatial distribution of both population density and of urban land cover. These spatial development patterns are determinants of both vulnerability to impacts as well as to emissions and land use.

The projected size and spatial distribution of future population are important drivers of global change and key determinants of exposure and vulnerability to hazards. Researchers from NCAR’s IAM group and the City University of New York Institute for Demographic Research developed a new set of global, spatially explicit population scenarios that are consistent with the new Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs). The SSPs describe alternative future pathways of societal change that were developed to facilitate global change research.

The spatial population scenarios cover the period 2010-2100 in ten-year time steps. The projections were initially made at a spatial resolution of 1/8-degree, and were later downscaled to 1-km resolution. Read more about the scenarios in the Environmental Research Letters paper “Spatially explicit global population scenarios consistent with the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways”, and the NCAR Technical Note “Downscaling Global Spatial Population Projections from 1/8-degree to 1-km Grid Cells”. The data are available for download here.

Spatial population projections for the United States have been combined with regional climate model projections to estimate future exposure to extreme heat in North America. This analysis is currently being extended to a global projection of future population and exposure to exteme heat as part of the BRACE project.