January 14, 2019
Journal Article

A global record of annual urban dynamics (1992-2013) from nighttime lights

Yuyu Zhou
Xuecao Li
Ghassem Asrar
Steven Smith
Marc Imhoff
The nighttime light (NTL) observations from Defense Meteorological Satellite Program/Operational Linescane System (DMSP/OLS) offer great potentials to study urban dynamics from regional to global scales for over two decades. In this paper, we presented a new approach to develop spatially and temporally consistent global urban maps from 1992 to 2013, using the DMSP/OLS NTL observations. First, potential urban clusters were delineated from the NTL data using a segmentation method. Then, a quantile based approach was proposed to remove rural and suburban areas sequentially in the potential urban cluster. Finally, the derived urban series (1992-2013) was improved for temporal consistency. This study found that the percentage of global urban areas to the world’s surface increased from 0.23% in 1992 to 0.53% in 2013. Meanwhile, Asia is the continent with the most significant urban growth over the world. The time series of global urban maps were evaluated for the spatial agreement and temporal consistency using a variety of widely used land cover products. The evaluation indicates that our approach is robust and performs well in deriving global urban dynamics across different spatial scales, i.e., cluster, province (or state), and countries. Moreover, different from many other studies, this quantile based approach is advantageous because it does not require additional data for enhancement or calibration. The new time series of urban maps from this study offer a new dataset for studying global urbanization in the past two decades.

Revised: January 14, 2019 | Published: December 15, 2018

Zhou Y., X. Li, G.R. Asrar, S.J. Smith, and M. Imhoff. 2018. "A global record of annual urban dynamics (1992-2013) from nighttime lights." Remote Sensing of Environment 219. PNNL-SA-129683. doi:10.1016/j.rse.2018.10.015