Investigating the characteristics of urban expansion is helpful in managing the relationship between urbanization and the ecological and environmental issues related to sustainable development. The Defense Meteorological Satellite Program/Operational Line-scan System (DMSP/OLS) collects visible and near-infrared light from the Earth’s surface at night without moonlight. It generates effective time series data for mapping the dynamics of urban expansion. As a major urban agglomeration in the world, the Yangtze River Delta Urban Agglomeration (YRDUA) is an important intersection zone of both the “Belt and Road Initiative” and the “Yangtze River Economic Belt” in China. Therefore, this paper analyses urban expansion characteristics of the YRDUA for 1993–2012 from urban extents extracted from the DMSP/OLS for 1993, 1997, 2002, 2007, and 2012. First, calibration procedures are applied to DMSP/OLS data, including intercalibration, intra-annual composition, and inter-annual series correction procedures. Spatial extents are then extracted from the corrected DMSP/OLS data, and a threshold is determined via the spatial comparison method. Finally, three models are used to explore urban expansion characteristics of the YRDUA from expansion rates, expansion spatial patterns, and expansion evaluations. The results show that the urban expansion of the YRDUA occurred at an increasing rate from 1993–2007 and then declined after 2007 with the onset of the global financial crisis. The Suxichang and Ningbo metropolitan circles were seriously affected by the financial crisis, while the Hefei metropolitan circle was not. The urban expansion of the YRDUA moved from the northeast to the southwest over the 20-year period. Urban expansion involved internal infilling over the first 15 years and then evolved into external sprawl and suburbanization after 2007.
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