Urban expansion has long been a research hotspot and is often based on individual cities, but rarely has research conducted a comprehensive comparison between coastal and inland metropoles for understanding different spatial patterns of urban expansions and driving forces. We selected coastal metropoles (Shanghai and Shenzhen in China, and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam) and inland metropoles (Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia, Lanzhou in China, and Vientiane in Laos) with various developing stages and physical conditions for examining the spatiotemporal patterns of urban expansions in the past 25 years (1990–2015). Multitemporal Landsat images with 30 m spatial resolution were used to develop urban impervious surface area (ISA) distributions and examine their dynamic changes. The impacts of elevation, slope, and rivers on spatial patterns of urban expansion were examined. This research indicates that ISA is an important variable for examining urban expansion. Coastal metropoles had much faster urbanization rates than inland metropoles. The spatial patterns of urban ISA distribution and expansion are greatly influenced by physical conditions; that is, ISA is mainly distributed in the areas with slopes of less than 10 degrees. Rivers are important geographical factors constraining urban expansion, especially in developing stages, while bridges across the rivers promote urban expansion patterns and rates. The relationships of spatial patterns of urban ISA distribution and dynamics with physical conditions provide scientific data for urban planning, management, and sustainability.
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