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Open AccessFeature PaperReview

Applications of Satellite Remote Sensing of Nighttime Light Observations: Advances, Challenges, and Perspectives

Department of Geological and Atmospheric Sciences, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011, USA
School of Geographic and Oceanographic Sciences, Nanjing University, Nanjing 210023, China
State Key Laboratory of Resources and Environmental Information Systems, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China
Collaborative Innovation Center of South China Sea Studies, Nanjing 210023, China
Center for Human-Environment System Sustainability, State Key Laboratory of Earth Surface Processes and Resource Ecology, Faculty of Geographical Science, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China
Key Laboratory of Geographic Information Science (Ministry of Education), East China Normal University, Shanghai 200241, China
State Key Laboratory of Information Engineering in Surveying, Mapping and Remote Sensing, Wuhan University, Wuhan 430079, China
Earth Observation Group, Payne Institute, Colorado School of Mines, 1500 Illinois St., Golden, CO 80401, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Remote Sens. 2019, 11(17), 1971;
Received: 3 July 2019 / Revised: 10 August 2019 / Accepted: 19 August 2019 / Published: 21 August 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Remote Sensing: 10th Anniversary)
Nighttime light observations from remote sensing provide us with a timely and spatially explicit measure of human activities, and therefore enable a host of applications such as tracking urbanization and socioeconomic dynamics, evaluating armed conflicts and disasters, investigating fisheries, assessing greenhouse gas emissions and energy use, and analyzing light pollution and health effects. The new and improved sensors, algorithms, and products for nighttime lights, in association with other Earth observations and ancillary data (e.g., geo-located big data), together offer great potential for a deep understanding of human activities and related environmental consequences in a changing world. This paper reviews the advances of nighttime light sensors and products and examines the contributions of nighttime light remote sensing to perceiving the changing world from two aspects (i.e., human activities and environmental changes). Based on the historical review of the advances in nighttime light remote sensing, we summarize the challenges in current nighttime light remote sensing research and propose four strategic directions, including: Improving nighttime light data; developing a long time series of consistent nighttime light data; integrating nighttime light observations with other data and knowledge; and promoting multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary analyses of nighttime light observations. View Full-Text
Keywords: nighttime light; advances; challenges; strategic directions; review nighttime light; advances; challenges; strategic directions; review
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MDPI and ACS Style

Zhao, M.; Zhou, Y.; Li, X.; Cao, W.; He, C.; Yu, B.; Li, X.; Elvidge, C.D.; Cheng, W.; Zhou, C. Applications of Satellite Remote Sensing of Nighttime Light Observations: Advances, Challenges, and Perspectives. Remote Sens. 2019, 11, 1971.

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