I was looking at a map highlighted on Reddit the other day from the website mapsbynik. It showed the unpopulated areas of the United States. I was going to do a similar exercise for Ireland but when I examined the census data it quickly emerged that no ‘Small Area’ (the unit with the finest spatial resolution) was constructed to have a population of zero, even the Small Areas that formed part of large national parks were considerably larger than the average small area, one assumes this was a conscious decision taken by the Central Statistics Office.
Instead I decided to focus my attention on Australia, from perusing their website, their equivalent of the Irish Small Areas was the ‘Mesh Block’ which were ‘the smallest geographic region in the Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS), and the smallest geographical unit for which Census data are available’ (more information here). In 2011 there were 347, 627 mesh blocks for the country. I created a map of the unpopulated mesh blocks but it wasn’t very informative, large sections of the country were showing as being populated when in fact they weren’t.
In an effort to improve my map I continued searching their website until I found the 2011 Population Grid. The methodology of how their created their population grid is here. I then downloaded 9 shapefiles and merged them together in QGIS. I then used a definition query to select all the cells with a population of zero and created a map from this. It is a vast improvement from my initial effort. I spent some time styling my map in QGIS’s print composer. The below is the finished product. Very stark contrast between the big cities and the outback.