GHS-UCDB R2019A - GHS Urban Centre Database 2015, multitemporal and multidimensional attributes

Collection: GHSL : Global Human Settlement Layer 


The Global Human Settlement Layer (GHSL) produces new global spatial information, evidence-based analytics, and knowledge describing the human presence in the planet. The Joint Research Centre (JRC) and the Directorate General for Regional Development (DG REGIO) of the European Commission support the GHSL activities. The GHSL contributes to the international partnership “GEO Human Planet Initiative”. The GHSL methods rely on automatic spatial data mining technologies allowing the extraction of analytics and knowledge from large amount of heterogeneous data including global, fine-scale satellite-image data streams, census data, and crowd sources or volunteering geographic information sources. Spatial data reporting objectively and systematically about the presence of population and built-up infrastructures are necessary for any evidence-based modelling or assessing of i) human and physical exposure to threats as environmental contamination and degradation, natural disasters and conflicts, ii) impact of human activities on ecosystems, and iii) access to resources. The GHS Urban Centre Database (GHS- UCDB) describes spatial entities called “urban centres” accordingly to a set of multi-temporal thematic attributes gathered from the GHSL sources integrated with other sources available in the open scientific domain.

The Urban Centres are defined by specific cut-off values on resident population and built-up surface share in a 1x1 km global uniform grid. The input data it is generated by the GHSL, and the operating parameters are set in the frame of the “degree of urbanization” (DEGURBA) methodology. The DEGURBA is a methodology for delineation of urban and rural areas made for international statistical comparison purposes that is developed by the European Commission, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), UN-Habitat and the World Bank. The reference GHSL input data used to delineate the Urban Centres are included in the Community pre-Release of GHS Data Package (GHS CR2018) in support to the GEO Human Planet Initiative. The parameter set used to delineate the Urban Centres from the input data are included in the GHSL settlement classification model SMODv9s10E 2018. The reference epoch for the spatial delineation of the Urban Centres is 2015. The attributes of the GHS-UCDB have different time depth for a maximum of 40 years, depending on availability of the input sources.


jrc-ghsl-data (at)


How to cite

Florczyk, Aneta; Corbane, Christina; Schiavina, Marcello; Pesaresi, Martino; Maffenini, Luca; Melchiorri, Michele; Politis, Panagiotis; Sabo, Filip; Freire, Sergio; Ehrlich, Daniele; Kemper, Thomas; Tommasi, Pierpaolo; Airaghi, Donato; Zanchetta, Luigi (2019): GHS-UCDB R2019A - GHS Urban Centre Database 2015, multitemporal and multidimensional attributes. European Commission, Joint Research Centre (JRC) [Dataset] doi: 10.2905/53473144-b88c-44bc-b4a3-4583ed1f547e PID:


Accessibility Biome built-up areas Climate CO2 DDR degree of urbanisation DEGURBA Flood Earthquake Elevation Environment GHS-UCDB GHSL Greenness Heatwave Land Use Efficiency GDP multitemporal Nightlight PM2.5 Open space Pollution Precipitation population Remoteness settlement model River basin Storm surge Soil SDG Sustainable Development Goal Temperature Settlement model urban UCDB Urban centre Urban Centre urban-rural classification

Data access

  • The data is distributed as one ZIP file, which is composed of several files, i.e., XLS, CSV and SHP. The XLS file contains short documentation and the attributes. The CVS files contains the attributes. The shapefile contains the polygons of Urban Centres 2015 (vectorised from 1x1 km grid in World Mollweide projection), and selected attributes.

GHSL website
  • Project Web site


Publication 2019
Description of the GHS Urban Centre Database 2015
Florczyk, A., Melchiorri, M., Corban, C., Schiavina, M., Maffenini, L., Pesaresi, M., Politis, P., Sabo, F., Carneiro Freire, S., Ehrlich, D., Kemper, T., Tommasi, P., Airaghi, D. and Zanchetta, L., Description of the GHS Urban Centre Database 2015, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, 2019, ISBN 978-92-79-99753-2 (online), doi:10.2760/037310 (online), JRC115586.
  • Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, Luxembourg
Publication page 
  • Abstract

    The Global Human Settlement Layer Urban Centres Database (GHS-UCDB) is the most complete database on cities to date, publicly released as an open and free dataset - GHS STAT UCDB2015MT GLOBE R2019A V1.0. The database represents the global status on Urban Centres in 2015 by offering cities location, their extent (surface, shape), and describing each city with a set of geographical, socio-economic and

    environmental attributes, many of them going back 25 or even 40 years in time. Urban Centres are defined in a consistent way across geographical locations and over time, applying the “Global Definition of Cities and Settlements” developed by the European Union to the Global Human Settlement Layer Built-up (GHS-BUILT) areas and Population (GHS-POP) grids. This report contains the description of the dimensions and the derived attributes that characterise the Urban Centres in the database. The document includes notes about methodology and sources. The GHS-UCDB contains information for more than 10,000 Urban Centres and it is the baseline data of the analytical results presented in the Atlas of the Human Planet 2018.

Publication 2018
Atlas of the Human Planet 2018
Carneiro Freire, S., Corban, C., Ehrlich, D., Florczyk, A., Kemper, T., Melchiorri, M., Pesaresi, M. and Schiavina, M., Atlas of the Human Planet 2018, EUR 29497 EN, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, 2018, ISBN 978-92-79-98185-2 (online), doi:10.2760/124503 (online), JRC114316.
  • Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, Luxembourg
Publication page 
  • Abstract

    The Atlas of the Human Planet 2018 describes the Urban Centre Database, which was produced in the framework of the Global Human Settlement Layer (GHSL) project by applying a global definition of cities and settlements to the GHSL data. The Atlas presents the key findings of the analysis of geographic, environmental and socio-economic variables that were gathered from free and open sources for each urban centre in the world.

Geographic areas


Temporal coverage

From date To date
1975-01-01 2018-12-30

Additional information

Published by
European Commission, Joint Research Centre
Created date
Modified date
Issued date
Landing page 
Data theme(s)
Regions and cities, Science and technology
Update frequency