Tuesday 20 December 2022

Population by altitude in Great Britain

This topic of population by latitude has always interested me, and it's something I've written about here before. But I'm also very interested in population by altitude, so that's what this short post is about - population by altitude across Great Britain. This is one of a few pieces I've had sitting on my computer, unfinished, for a while so I'm posting what I have now because I think people might find it interesting.

If you're interested in the topic more generally - and globally - check out this PNAS paper from 1998, it's very interesting. Okay, so here are my results, in the chart below.

Not massively surprising, but quite interesting

So what are we to make of this? Well, hardly anyone lives above 400 metres above sea level. In places like Wanlockhead (467m / 1,531ft) in Dumfries and Galloway or Flash (463m / 1,519ft) in Staffordshire there aren't that many people and actually these numbers are disputed because Flash is said to be the actual highest village in Britain. Either way, they are relatively high up. So, let's summarise those numbers a bit more.

  • About 50% of the population appears to live at 50 metres or lower
  • About 25% live at 100 metres or higher
  • About 3% live at 200 metres or higher
That's about all for today, apart from the map below and then a few words on method.

Uplands and lowlands of Great Britain

The method was basically this: take the Ordnance Survey 50 metre resolution elevation dataset for Great Britain. Take the 2020 WorldPop 1km population dataset. Aggregate elevation to an average value for each 1km cell across Great Britain then use that to sum population by altitude. Yes, this won't be perfect but I think the results are pretty decent given the data we have available. I haven't seen anyone else do these calculations but please let me know if you've done it and got similar/different results.