Santa Claus should live in northern Sweden


Santa’s home would logically be located in the small town of Jokkmokk in northern Sweden, according to researchers at Lund University in Sweden, who have used satellite images of the Earth to calculate the mean centre of the global population.


The results contradict the idea that Santa’s hometown is in Rovaniemi, Finland. In fact, the same calculation using images from 1992 – the year when satellite images first became available – places Santa Claus in Jan Mayern, Norway. The new location reflects changes in the global population and economy over time.

Assuming that the gifts are distributed somewhat evenly across the globe, Jokkmokk would be the most reasonable location for Santa’s home base – at least this year.

”The result may seem surprising, but when taking the spherical earth model into account it makes a lot of sense. The old notion of Santa living at the North Pole is not completely wrong”, says Ola Hall, lecturer in human and economic geography.

The researchers located population centres as a part of a study on migration. Using the case of Sweden, they demonstrated that migration patterns were very accurately reflected in changes in night-time lights.

”In Sweden, there are reliable statistics on how and when people move within the country. Therefore, we were able to put night-time lights to the test to see if the same conclusions could be drawn using only satellite images. We were surprised to see that the nighttime images were generally accurate”, says Ola Hall.

The study showed that night-time lights can be used to estimate migration distances. Traditional methods rely on statistics based on country borders and other regional boundaries which are arbitrarily defined and differ from one country to another. This makes it difficult to know how far people go when they move.

”When we remove all administrative divisions and borders in the world, patterns other than the traditional appear. Natural population concentrations emerge, making it easier to study changes to the global population”, Ola Hall concludes.

Publication: Using Satellite Data on Nighttime Lights Intensity to Estimate Contemporary Human Migration Distances

Ola Hall, lecturer in human and economic geography
ola [dot] hall [at] keg [dot] lu [dot] se
+46 73 374 78 49