The International Archives of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences
Publications Copernicus
Articles | Volume XLI-B8
23 Jun 2016
 | 23 Jun 2016


B. Arellano and J. Roca

Keywords: human settlements, urban sprawl, nighttime lights, rurbanization, ex-urban

Abstract. The gradual spread of urbanization, the phenomenon known under the term urban sprawl, has become one of the paradigms that have characterized the urban development since the second half of the twentieth century and early twenty-first century. However, there is no unanimous consensus about what means "urbanization". The plurality of forms of human settlement on the planet difficult to identify the urbanization processes. The arrival of electrification to nearly every corner of the planet is certainly the first and more meaningful indicator of artificialization of land. In this sense, the paper proposes a new methodology based on the analysis of the satellite image of nighttime lights designed to identify the highly impacted landscapes worldwide and to build an index of Land Impacted by Light per capita (LILpc) as an indicator of the level of urbanization. The used methodology allows the identification of different typologies of urbanized areas (villages, cities or metropolitan areas), as well as “rural”, “rurban”, “periurban” and “central” landscapes.

The study identifies 186,134 illuminated contours (urbanized areas). In one hand, 404 of these contours could be consider as real “metropolitan areas”; and in the other hand, there are 161,821 contours with less than 5,000 inhabitants, which could be identify as “villages”. Finally, the paper shows that 44.5 % live in rural areas, 15.5 % in rurban spaces, 26.2 % in suburban areas and only 18.4 % in central areas.