54 major world cities, head-to-head. USA and Eastern Asia show their urban might.
I wish I could tell you that there is a diverse range of continents represented in the top 10, or even top 20, of those, but I can’t. There is a great over-representation from the USA (~9) and Asia (~6), which leaves only five left for the remaining five continents.
As we get to the smaller sized urban areas, in the region of 0-25 square miles, the sheer number of Asian cities comes to the fore. The city mapping below was done by Matt Hartzel, who had to eye-ball some of the cities’ formations:
If we now order this by population, there seems to be little logical correlation with American cities.
The likes of Miami, Atlanta and New York show a stark contrast in the way that the metropolitan areas grow when compared to other continents. Karachi is incredibly tightly defined given its population size, the same with New Delhi, Jakarta and Dhaka. Tokyo is the major exception in Asia.
Here they are ordered by population size (again from Matt Hartzell):
But how anomalous are American cities compared to the rest of the world?
This is covered by Matt too. Take Atlanta (with a metropolitan area of ~8,376 square miles). Then take Karachi, Chengdu, Jakarta, Chongqing, Cairo, Xi’an, Dhaka and Jinan (with a combined population of around 100 million people).
Lay them on top of one another…
And now a few words on methodology. As with all maps and statistics, these should be taken with several grains of salt. The goal here was to create a simple infographic for broad comparative purposes. To create the footprints themselves, I used satellite imagery to physically trace the boundaries of the built-up area of each city’s greater urban area. These footprints do not correspond to administrative boundaries. They are based purely on the divide between urban and rural land use. Which, at times, can be a very subjective task. I included low density suburban housing tracts within my urban footprints (hence the size of the US cities). I included dense built up areas which weren’t connected to the main contiguous urban area but were within its periphery (examples: Moscow, Frankfurt). I excluded rural areas, farmland, villages, or large urban parks. Obviously, simplification was necessary. [Source]