Historically, the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program’s Operational Linescan System (DMSP-OLS) was the unique satellite sensor used to collect the nighttime light, which is an efficient means to map the global economic activities. Since it was launched in October 2011, the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) sensor on the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) Satellite has become a new satellite used to monitor nighttime light. This study performed the first evaluation on the NPP-VIIRS nighttime light imagery in modeling economy, analyzing 31 provincial regions and 393 county regions in China. For each region, the total nighttime light (TNL) and gross regional product (GRP) around the year of 2010 were derived, and a linear regression model was applied on the data. Through the regression, the TNL from NPP-VIIRS were found to exhibit R2
values of 0.8699 and 0.8544 with the provincial GRP and county GRP, respectively, which are significantly stronger than the relationship between the TNL from DMSP-OLS (F16 and F18 satellites) and GRP. Using the regression models, the GRP was predicted from the TNL for each region, and we found that the NPP-VIIRS data is more predictable for the GRP than those of the DMSP-OLS data. This study demonstrates that the recently released NPP-VIIRS nighttime light imagery has a stronger capacity in modeling regional economy than those of the DMSP-OLS data. These findings provide a foundation to model the global and regional economy with the recently availability of the NPP-VIIRS data, especially in the regions where economic census data is difficult to access.