Mike King

NASA Lightmap vs. Census Dotmap

Take at look at these two maps that have recently been circulating. The first map from NASA shows a nighttime view of the United State. Brandon Martin-Anderson from the MIT Media Lab created the second map. Brandon’s map depicts every person counted by the 2010 US and 2011 Canadian censuses. The map has 341,817,095 dots — one for each person. 

Here are a few observations from the maps.

  1. It is still the “wild west” in terms of development. There is plenty of room for infrastructure and population growth.

  2. The census map overlays almost exactly with the latest light map from NASA. The NASA image is from 2012 and the census map was generated from 2010 census data.

  3. The one noticeable anomaly is in North Dakota where the NASA map picks up widespread oil/gas drilling that does not correlate with the population of the area. If you are curious, NASA posted more information about this on their blog.