Greenland Has Grown By Over 20% During The Last 50 Years

ā€œPlanting the flagā€ usually means making a claim to something, usually territory or land.

Throughout history men have ā€œplanted the flagā€ claiming ownership in the name of the king, queen, country, church, etc. marking the land as their own.

If you’re planning to “plant a flag” and claim anĀ area of earth, time is running out. Marie Byrd Land and Bir Tawil Triangle are the only two land areas on Earth not claimed by any country.

The size of a countries land mass can vary for a number of reasons. Historically territorial disputes have seen land won and lost. The biggest risk to a countries land mass in the modern day is the sea,Ā in some cases threatening a countries very existence.

ButĀ which countries have changed the most in size over the past 50 years?

Methodology

I used World BankĀ dataĀ that documents each countries land mass yearly since 1961.

To add additional context I usedĀ territorial disputes data found on Wikipedia.

Results

Land mass changes

count of countries that have changed in size

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Out of 223 countries, 37 decreased in land mass, 151 had no change and 20 grew.

land mass changes by sq km

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Most land mass changes were small +/-1K sq. km —Ā about half the size of Monaco.

Overall,Ā total land mass of all countries shrunk 94K sq. km between 1961 and 2014.

land area changes by country

Full size map.

Growing countries

10 countries that have grown most in land mass

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Rank land area % change Country Name Land area diff (sq. km) 1961 – 2014 Land area % of total 1961 – 2014
1 Macao SAR, China 10.30 51.50
2 Greenland 68,750.00 20.12
3 Bahrain 80.00 11.59
4 Singapore 37.00 5.52
5 Hong Kong SAR, China 30.00 2.94
6 Korea, Rep. 1,006.00 1.04
7 Jordan 540.00 0.61
8 Hungary 490.00 0.54
9 Bosnia and Herzegovina 200.00 0.39
10 Uganda 710.00 0.36

Full ranking.

Greenland’s land mass has increased 68,750 sq. km since 1961 — about the size of the Republic of Ireland.Ā According to World Bank records the increase happened between 1996 and 1997 where land mass went from 341,700 sq. km to 410,450 — a 20% increase. I assume this is because of melting ice being officially recorded between these years.

Although Macao grew by only 10.3 sq. km this is a 50% increase in total land mass over the 53 year period.

ShrinkingĀ countries

10 countries that have shrunk most in land mass

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Rank land area % change Country Name Land area diff (sq. km) 1961 – 2014 Land area % of total 1961 – 2014
199 St. Kitts and Nevis -90.00 -25.71
200 Bhutan -8,606.00 -18.42
201 Ecuador -28,480.00 -10.29
202 Ethiopia -101,000.00 -9.17
203 Vietnam -15,420.00 -4.74
204 Channel Islands -4.00 -2.06
205 Bulgaria -2,070.00 -1.87
206 Seychelles -5.00 -1.09
207 Cuba -951.00 -0.89
208 Macedonia, FYR -210.00 -0.83

Full ranking.

Ethiopia has lost over 100K sq. km of it’s land mass since 1961.Ā The change happened between 1992 and 1993 where land mass went from 1.1M sq. km to 1M — a loss of over 9%!

The list of shrinking countries has 4 small island nations: St Kitts and Nevis, Channel Islands, Seychelles and Cuba. This is probably a result of rising sea levels. St Kitts and Nevis lost over 25% (90 sq. km) of it’s total land mass between 1961 – 2014.

The income factor

land area diff sq km 1961 2014

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It is low income areas that will feel the impacts the most from sea level rise as they areĀ the least preparedĀ (lots of settlements on coast, little funding for protection projects, etc.).

The World Bank’s income segmentation highlights how the low and middle income countries areĀ perhaps already suffering land losses as a result.

In total the world lost -34,218 sq. km of reported land mass between 1961 – 2014 — about a 0.07% total loss.

Territorial disputes

count of disputes by countries with more than 5 disputed territories

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78 countries have multiple active disputes for land. The US has the most active disputes (13), 6 of which are with Canada.

Did you know? France and Italy still dispute ownership of theĀ Mont Blanc summit

disputed territories by region

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In total there are 159 active land disputes across the world.

Improvements

This post offers a very basic look at changing land masses with little context. Significant changes in land mass should be analysed alongside any relevant contextual information – sea level change, conflicts, etc… – to provide information on causation.

tl;dr

Ethiopia has shrunk the most in total land mass between 1961 and 2014 (-101,000 sq.km). St. Kitts and Nevis has shrunk the most as a % of total land mass (-26%).

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

Passport Power Rank 2016

If you have aĀ visa or visa-free access to enter a country your journey through a border isĀ often muchĀ easier.

AsĀ the modern world becomesĀ ever moreĀ interconnected one would expect an increase of visa-free travel relationships between countries.Ā But with the seemingly growing list of conflicts such freedoms can vary significantly depending on nationality.

SoĀ which country has the most powerful passport for visa-free travel?

Methodology

Each year Henley & PartnersĀ publishes a “Visa Restriction Index”,Ā a global ranking of countries according to the travel freedom that their citizens enjoy.

Points are awardedĀ toĀ countries for the number of destinations that offer visa-free travel to their citizens. e-Visas are treated the same as visas on arrival. Where the conditions for obtaining an e-visa are straightforward (fee, return ticket, hotel reservation), a visa-free point was assigned.

Analysis

Best and worst passports for travel

Country visa free count 2016 map

Full-sizeĀ map.

Visa-free Rank Country Visa-free Destinations for Citizens
1 Germany 177
2 Sweden 176
3 Italy 175
3 France 175
3 Spain 175
3 Finland 175
3 United Kingdom 175
8 United States 174
8 Denmark 174
8 Belgium 174
8 Netherlands 174

Visa-free Rank Country Visa-free Destinations for Citizens
188 Palestine, State of 37
188 Sudan 37
188 Eritrea 37
188 Nepal 37
188 Ethiopia 37
188 Iran, Islamic Republic of 37
194 Libya 36
195 Syrian Arab Republic 32
196 Somalia 31
197 Iraq 30
198 Pakistan 29
199 Afghanistan 25

Full list.

Citizens in Western countries enjoy the most freedoms to travel. The top 10 countries by number of visa-free destinations for passport holders consists mostly of European nations.

No European countries in the bottom 10 list of countries for visa-free travel, however. Sadly, many Middle Eastern and African countries that have suffered war and poor international relationships make up most of this list.

Did you know?Ā Citizens of North Korea can travel to 42 countries without a visa (should they be granted permission toĀ travel). Surprisingly, 20 other countries have fewer visa-free destinations than North Korea.

Year-on-year changes

Total of Visa Free Relationships by Year

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Visa-free travel between countries hasĀ increased from 18,003 in 2013 to 19,072 in 2016, with a slight dip between 2014 and 2015.

2016 - 2013 Change in Visa Free Destinations for Citizens by Country

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Of 199 countries between 2013 – 2016, 25 countries saw places their citizens can visit without a visa decrease, 13 had no change, and 161 saw an increase.

Out of the 25 of the countries that saw visa-free travel reduce, 16 were African. Comparing allĀ African countries, it is the only region to see a decreaseĀ between 2013 – 2016 for visa-free travel.

Regional differences

Cumulative total of visa-free destinations by region by year

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Citizens of theĀ 27 EU member states automatically qualify forĀ the largest freedom of movement anywhere in the world. Perhaps unsurprisingly then, cumulatively EuropeanĀ citizens enjoy the fewest travel visa requirements to travel worldwide (note, the European region includes 22 non EU nations).

Region Count of countries
Middle East 13
Africa 53
Americas 35
Asia and the Pacific 50
Europe 49

View calculations.

However,Ā the cumulative number of visa-free destinations does not take into account region size. Europe has the largest cumulative count of visa-free destinations, but it also contains the secondĀ largest number of countries.

Average adjusted visa-free destinations per country by region year

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Adjusting for countries in each region (cumulative visa free destinations per region / count of countries), European citizens still fare best in 2016, and all years post 2012 for that matter.

This adjustment also highlightsĀ the fact large differences in visa restrictions between regions. On average in 2016, African citizens could travel to about 53 countries without a visa. In contrast European citizens could visit 146 destinations without a visa — a massive difference even when you ignore the EU freedom of movement area.

Improvements

Visa-free travel represents only partĀ ofĀ the movement of people around the world. Consequently, numbers on all types of entries by country would be very interesting to compare, for example; what countries issue the most business / tourism / long-term visas etc?

tl;dr

  • The passports that have the mostĀ visa-free destinationsĀ for holders in 2016 from a total of 199 countries: 1. Germany (177), 2. Sweden (176), 3. Italy, France, Finland, UK (175).
  • The passports that have the least visa-free destinationsĀ for holders in 2016 from a total of 199 countries: 197. Iraq (30), 198. Pakistan (29), 199. Afghanistan (25).
  • European citizens enjoy the least travel restrictions being allowed to travel, on average, to 146 countries without requiring a visa. Citizens of African nations on the other hand fare the worst, with only 53 countries welcoming them without a visa.

    Acknowledgements