In this study, we analyzed the night-time light dynamics in Iraq over the period 2012–2017 by using Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) monthly composites. The data quality of VIIRS images was improved by repairing the missing data, and the Night-time Light Ratio Indices (NLRIs), derived from urban extent map and night-time light images, were calculated for different provinces and cities. We found that when the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) attacked or occupied a region, the region lost its light rapidly, with the provinces of Al-Anbar, At-Ta’min, Ninawa, and Sala Ad-din losing 63%, 73%, 88%, and 56%, of their night-time light, respectively, between December 2013 and December 2014. Moreover, the light returned after the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) recaptured the region. In addition, we also found that the night-time light in the Kurdish Autonomous Region showed a steady decline after 2014, with the Arbil, Dihok, and As-Sulaymaniyah provinces losing 47%, 18%, and 31% of their night-time light between December 2013 and December 2016 as a result of the economic crisis in the region. The night-time light in Southern Iraq, the region controlled by Iraqi central government, has grown continuously; for example, the night-time light in Al Basrah increased by 75% between December 2013 and December 2017. Regions formerly controlled by ISIS experienced a return of night-time light during 2017 as the ISF retook almost all this territory in 2017. This indicates that as reconstruction began, electricity was re-supplied in these regions. Our analysis shows the night-time light in Iraq is directly linked to the socioeconomic dynamics of Iraq, and demonstrates that the VIIRS monthly night-time light images are an effective data source for tracking humanitarian disasters in that country.
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