east asia’s changing urban landscape



East-Southeast Asia has become one of the fastest urbanizing regions in the world, impacting local-regional climate, water quality/availability, arable land and natural habitat, as well as the livelihoods and vulnerability of huge populations. In our recent work, we estimate urban land expansion and urban population growth for >1000 agglomerations in the East Asian region. Never before have we been able to quantify change of this magnitude across multiple countries due to data and methodological limitations. Here we address these issues to reveal new findings about some of the most dynamic areas on the planet. Urban land area increased >22% in East Asia, 2000-2010, while urban populations climbed >31%, adding 231 mil persons – an amount greater than the total population of Brazil – in just ten years (from 738 to 969 mil). The majority of cities have become more dense during the 2000-2010 decade, including those in China, and somewhat surprisingly, those in industrialized countries (South Korea, Japan) as well. In addition, the results show that smaller cities are growing at more rapid rates than the top 30 ‘megacities’ in the region.

With new NASA funding (2014), our recent efforts have focused on: (1) monitoring urban expansion globally, 2000-2010 (including development of new c. 2000 and c. 2010 urban extent datasets); (2) providing sub-pixel estimates of global urban land use; and (3) differentiating downtown areas from low density residential land.

Recent publications

Schneider, A. et al. (2015). A new urban landscape in East-Southeast Asia, 2000-2010. Environmental Research Letters, vol. 10, article 034002.

Mertes, C.M., Schneider, A., Tan, B., Sulla-Menashe, D., Tatem, A.J. (2015). Detecting change in urban areas at continental scales with MODIS data. Remote Sensing of Environment, vol. 158, p. 331-347.

Schneider, A., Chang, C., Paulsen, K. (2015). The changing spatial form of cities in Western China. Landscape and Urban Planning, vol. 135, p. 40-61.

Huang, X., Schneider, A., Friedl, M. (2015). Mapping fractional urban cover in China using MODIS time series and DMSP/OLS nighttime lights. Remote Sensing of Environment, in review.

Schneider, A., Mertes, C. (2014). Expansion and growth in Chinese cities, 1978-2010. Environmental Research Letters, vol. 9, 024008.

Kontgis, C., Schneider, A., Fox, J., Saksena, S., Spencer, J., Castrence, M. (2014) Monitoring peri-urbanization in the greater Ho Chi Minh City metropolitan area. Applied Geography, vol. 53, p. 377-388.

Click here for additional publication information.

Available datasets

To download the new map of MODIS 250m urban expansion in a variety of formats, click here.

Research questions

What will the global urban landscape look like in the future?

Research team

Annemarie Schneider, Carly Mertes, Jo Horton, James Rollo, Ian Schelly

Similar projects

global mapping of urbanization

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