Urban Growth

Landsat’s Critical Role in Urban Planning

Cities are places of light, action, complex social interactions, multi-faceted cultures, and fast-paced living. It’s no wonder cities are growing faster than rural areas. Earth experienced a milestone in the history of urban landscapes in 2008-09. More than 50 percent of the world’s human population now lives in areas of contiguous urban development. People are driving landscape-scale changes on our planet. Considering that people change the land surface, vegetation, water cycle, radiant heat, and other aspects of the landscape, the nature of this milestone has important implications for life. Using Landsat data, people can monitor urban change and also forecast patterns of change in future urban landscapes. Landsat sensors employ a spatial resolution of 30 m, an ideal scale for observing human impacts on the land. The sensors detect urban growth with visible and infrared reflectivity consistently, objectively, and dependably over time.

Urban Planning Specifics

USGS Maps Anthropogenic Land Use Trends, 1974–2012

More and more we hear the term “anthropocene” used to describe the current epoch of our planet when humankind has had a profound impact on Earth. This month, the U.S. Geological Survey has released a Landsat-based report and dataset on anthropogenic land use trends in the U.S. between 1974 and 2012.

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