Visualizing diurnal population change in urban areas for emergency management

Prof Geogr. 2011;63(1):113-30. doi: 10.1080/00330124.2010.533565.


There is an increasing need for a quick, simple method to represent diurnal population change in metropolitan areas for effective emergency management and risk analysis. Many geographic studies rely on decennial U.S. Census data that assume that urban populations are static in space and time. This has obvious limitations in the context of dynamic geographic problems. The U.S. Department of Transportation publishes population data at the transportation analysis zone level in fifteen-minute increments. This level of spatial and temporal detail allows for improved dynamic population modeling. This article presents a methodology for visualizing and analyzing diurnal population change for metropolitan areas based on this readily available data. Areal interpolation within a geographic information system is used to create twenty-four (one per hour) population surfaces for the larger metropolitan area of Salt Lake County, Utah. The resulting surfaces represent diurnal population change for an average workday and are easily combined to produce an animation that illustrates population dynamics throughout the day. A case study of using the method to visualize population distributions in an emergency management context is provided using two scenarios: a chemical release and a dirty bomb in Salt Lake County. This methodology can be used to address a wide variety of problems in emergency management.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Censuses / history
  • Civil Defense / economics
  • Civil Defense / education
  • Civil Defense / history
  • Civil Defense / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Disaster Planning* / economics
  • Disaster Planning* / history
  • Disaster Planning* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Emergencies* / economics
  • Emergencies* / history
  • Emergencies* / psychology
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Population Density
  • Population Surveillance*
  • Risk Assessment / economics
  • Risk Assessment / history
  • Risk Assessment / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Transportation / economics
  • Transportation / history
  • Transportation / legislation & jurisprudence
  • United States / ethnology
  • Urban Health* / history
  • Urban Population* / history