DN Values and Geometric Errors in Nighttime Lights
The Defense Meteorological Satellite Program’s Operational Linescan System (DMSP-OLS) nighttime lights imagery has proven to be a powerful remote sensing tool to monitor urbanization and assess socioeconomic activities at large scales. However, the existence of incompatible digital number (DN) values and geometric errors severely limit application of nighttime light image data on multiyear quantitative research. In this paper, we extend and improve previous studies on intercalibrating nighttime lights image data to obtain more compatible and reliable nighttime lights time-series (NLT) image data for China and the U.S. through four steps, namely, intercalibration, geometric correction, steady-increase adjustment, and population data correction.
We then use gross domestic product (GDP) data to test the processed NLT image data indirectly and find that sum light (summed DN value of pixels in a nighttime light image) maintains apparent increase trends with relatively large GDP growth rates but does not increase or decrease with relatively small GDP growth rates. As nighttime light is a sensitive indicator for economic activity, the temporally consistent trends between sum light and GDP growth rate imply that brightness of nighttime lights on the ground is correctly represented by the processed NLT image data. Finally, through analyzing the corrected NLT image data from 1992 to 2008, we find that China experienced apparent nighttime lights development in 1992-1997 and 2001-2008, respectively, and the U.S. showed nighttime lights decay in large areas after 2001.
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