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Remote Sens. 2014, 6(8), 6844-6866; doi:10.3390/rs6086844

Application of DMSP/OLS Nighttime Light Images: A Meta-Analysis and a Systematic Literature Review

1,* , 2,3,†
1 State Key Laboratory of Earth Surface Processes and Resource Ecology, Beijing Normal University, 19 Xinjiekouwai Street, Beijing 100875, China 2 Department of Geological Sciences, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912, USA 3 The Ecosystems Center, Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, MA 02543, USA 4 School of Law and Political Science, Ocean University of China, Qingdao 266100, China 5 Key Laboratory of Soil and Water Conservation and Desertification Combating, School of Soil and Water Conservation, Beijing Forestry University, Beijing 100083, China These authors contributed equally to this work.
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 14 June 2014 / Revised: 18 July 2014 / Accepted: 18 July 2014 / Published: 25 July 2014
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Remote Sensing with Nighttime Lights)
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Since the release of the digital archives of Defense Meteorological Satellite Program Operational Line Scanner (DMSP/OLS) nighttime light data in 1992, a variety of datasets based on this database have been produced and applied to monitor and analyze human activities and natural phenomena. However, differences among these datasets and how they have been applied may potentially confuse researchers working with these data. In this paper, we review the ways in which data from DMSP/OLS nighttime light images have been applied over the past two decades, focusing on differences in data processing, research trends, and the methods used among the different application areas. Five main datasets extracted from this database have led to many studies in various research areas over the last 20 years, and each dataset has its own strengths and limitations. The number of publications based on this database and the diversity of authors and institutions involved have shown promising growth. In addition, researchers have accumulated vast experience retrieving data on the spatial and temporal dynamics of settlement, demographics, and socioeconomic parameters, which are “hotspot” applications in this field. Researchers continue to develop novel ways to extract more information from the DMSP/OLS database and apply the data to interdisciplinary research topics. We believe that DMSP/OLS nighttime light data will play an important role in monitoring and analyzing human activities and natural phenomena from space in the future, particularly over the long term. A transparent platform that encourages data sharing, communication, and discussion of extraction methods and synthesis activities will benefit researchers as well as public and political stakeholders.
Keywords: DMSP/OLS nighttime light data; application; review; meta-analysis DMSP/OLS nighttime light data; application; review; meta-analysis
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


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Huang, Q.; Yang, X.; Gao, B.; Yang, Y.; Zhao, Y. Application of DMSP/OLS Nighttime Light Images: A Meta-Analysis and a Systematic Literature Review. Remote Sens. 2014, 6, 6844-6866.

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