As the capital of China, Beijing has experienced a continued and rapid urbanization process in the past few decades. One of the key environmental impacts of rapid urbanization is the effect of urban heat island (UHI). The objective of this study was to estimate the urbanization indexes of Beijing from 1992 to 2013 based on the stable nighttime light (NTL) data derived from the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program’s Operational Line Scanner System (DMSP/OLS), which has became a widely used remote sensing database after decades of development. The annual average value nighttime light Digital Number (NTL-DN), and the total lit number and urban area proportion within Beijing’s boundary were calculated and compared with social-economic statistics parameters to estimate the correlation between them. Four Landsat thematic mapper (TM) images acquired in 1995 and 2009 were applied to estimate the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) and normalized land surface temperature (LSTnor
), and spatial correlation analysis was then carried out to investigate the relationship between the urbanization level and NDVI and LSTnor
. Our results showed a strong negative linear relationship between the NTL-DN value and NDVI; however, in contrast, a strong positive linear relationship between existed between the NTL-DN value and LSTnor
. By conducting a spatial comparison analysis of 1995 and 2009, the vegetation coverage change and surface temperature difference were calculated and compared with the NTL-DN difference. Our result revealed that the regions of fast urbanization resulted in a decrease of NDVI and increase of LSTnor
. In addition, choropleth maps showing the spatial pattern of urban heat island zones were produced based on different temperatures, and the analysis result indicated that the spatial distribution of surface temperature was closely related with the NTL-DN and NDVI. These findings are helpful for understanding the urbanization process as well as urban ecology, which both have significant implications for urban planning and minimize the potential environmental impacts of urbanization in Beijing.
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