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A Rapid and Automated Urban Boundary Extraction Method Based on Nighttime Light Data in China

Chinese Academy of Surveying and Mapping (CASM), No. 28, Lianhuachi West Road, Beijing 100830, China
School of Geometrics, Liaoning Technical University, 88 Yulong Road, Fuxin 123000, China
College of Geomatics, Shandong University of Science, 579 Qianwangang Road, Qingdao 266590, China
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Remote Sens. 2019, 11(9), 1126;
Received: 16 April 2019 / Revised: 26 April 2019 / Accepted: 26 April 2019 / Published: 10 May 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Remote Sensing with Nighttime Lights)
PDF [2684 KB, uploaded 10 May 2019]


As urbanization has progressed over the past 40 years, continuous population growth and the rapid expansion of urban land use have caused some regions to experience various problems, such as insufficient resources and issues related to the environmental carrying capacity. The urbanization process can be understood using nighttime light data to quickly and accurately extract urban boundaries at large scales. A new method is proposed here to quickly and accurately extract urban boundaries using nighttime light imagery. Three types of nighttime light data from the DMSP/OLS (US military’s defense meteorological satellite), NPP-VIIRS (National Polar-orbiting Partnership-Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite), and Luojia1-01 data sets are selected, and the high-precision urban boundaries obtained from a high-resolution image are selected as the true value. Next, 15 cities are selected as the training samples, and the Jaccard coefficient is introduced. The spatial data comparison method is then used to determine the optimal threshold function for the urban boundary extraction. Alternative high-precision urban boundary truth-values for the 13 cities are then selected, and the accuracy of the urban boundary extraction results obtained using the optimal threshold function and the mutation detection method are evaluated. The following observations are made from the results: (i) The average relative errors for the urban boundary extraction results based on the three nighttime light data sources (DMSP/OLS, NPP-VIIRS, and Luojia1-01) using the optimal threshold functions are 29%, 20%, and 39%, respectively. Compared with the mutation detection method, these relative errors are reduced by 83%, 18%, and 77%, respectively; (ii) The average overall classification accuracies of the extracted urban boundaries are 95%, 96%, and 93%, respectively, which are 5%, 1%, and 7% higher than those for the mutation detection method; (iii) The average Kappa coefficients of the extracted urban boundaries are 61%, 71%, and 61%, respectively, which are 5%, 4%, and 12% higher than for the mutation detection method. View Full-Text
Keywords: urban boundary; DMSP/OLS; NPP-VIIRS; Luojia1-01; Jaccard coefficient; histogram feature urban boundary; DMSP/OLS; NPP-VIIRS; Luojia1-01; Jaccard coefficient; histogram feature

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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 (CC BY 4.0).

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Liu, X.; Ning, X.; Wang, H.; Wang, C.; Zhang, H.; Meng, J. A Rapid and Automated Urban Boundary Extraction Method Based on Nighttime Light Data in China. Remote Sens. 2019, 11, 1126.

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