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Dynamics of urban growth in the Washington DC metropolitan area, 1973-1996, from Landsat observations

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Like other human-induced landcover changes, urbanization represents a response to specific economic, demographic, or environmental conditions. We use the Washington D.C. area as a case study to relate satellite-derived estimates of urban growth to these economic and demographic drivers. Using the Landsat data archive we have created a three epoch timeseries for urban growth for the period 1973-1996. This map is based on a NDVI-differencing approach for establishing urban change filtered with a landcover classification to minimize confusion with agriculture. Results show that the built-up area surrounding Washington DC has expanded at a rate of ~22km2 per year during this period, with notably higher growth during the late-1980s. Comparisons with census data indicate that the physical growth of the urban plan, observable from space, can be reasonably correlated with regional and national economic patterns.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Geography, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA

Publication date: December 15, 2000

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