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Title: A Cluster-based Method to Map Urban Area from DMSP/OLS Nightlights

Accurate information of urban areas at regional and global scales is important for both the science and policy-making communities. The Defense Meteorological Satellite Program/Operational Linescan System (DMSP/OLS) nighttime stable light data (NTL) provide a potential way to map urban area and its dynamics economically and timely. In this study, we developed a cluster-based method to estimate the optimal thresholds and map urban extents from the DMSP/OLS NTL data in five major steps, including data preprocessing, urban cluster segmentation, logistic model development, threshold estimation, and urban extent delineation. Different from previous fixed threshold method with over- and under-estimation issues, in our method the optimal thresholds are estimated based on cluster size and overall nightlight magnitude in the cluster, and they vary with clusters. Two large countries of United States and China with different urbanization patterns were selected to map urban extents using the proposed method. The result indicates that the urbanized area occupies about 2% of total land area in the US ranging from lower than 0.5% to higher than 10% at the state level, and less than 1% in China, ranging from lower than 0.1% to about 5% at the province level with some municipalities as high as 10%. Themore » derived thresholds and urban extents were evaluated using high-resolution land cover data at the cluster and regional levels. It was found that our method can map urban area in both countries efficiently and accurately. Compared to previous threshold techniques, our method reduces the over- and under-estimation issues, when mapping urban extent over a large area. More important, our method shows its potential to map global urban extents and temporal dynamics using the DMSP/OLS NTL data in a timely, cost-effective way.« less
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Resource Type:
Journal Article
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Journal Name: Remote Sensing of Environment, 147:173-185
Research Org:
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Richland, WA (US)
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Country of Publication:
United States
DMSP/OLS; Nightlights; Urban area; Threshold; Cities; Segmentation; Land cover and land use change