Menu Close

Mapping Impervious Surface Expansion Using Medium-Resolution Satellite Image Time Series: A Case Study in the Yangtze River Delta, China


Gao, Feng; De Colstoun, Eric Brown; Ma, Ronghua; Weng, Qihao; Masek, Jeffrey G.; Chen, Jin; Pan, Yaozhong; & Song, Conghe H. (2012). Mapping Impervious Surface Expansion Using Medium-Resolution Satellite Image Time Series: A Case Study in the Yangtze River Delta, China. International Journal of Remote Sensing, 33(24), 7609-7628.


Cities have been expanding rapidly worldwide, especially over the past few decades. Mapping the dynamic expansion of impervious surface in both space and time is essential for an improved understanding of the urbanization process, land-cover and land-use change, and their impacts on the environment. Landsat and other medium-resolution satellites provide the necessary spatial details and temporal frequency for mapping impervious surface expansion over the past four decades. Since the US Geological Survey opened the historical record of the Landsat image archive for free access in 2008, the decades-old bottleneck of data limitation has gone. Remote-sensing scientists are now rich with data, and the challenge is how to make best use of this precious resource. In this article, we develop an efficient algorithm to map the continuous expansion of impervious surface using a time series of four decades of medium-resolution satellite images. The algorithm is based on a supervised classification of the time-series image stack using a decision tree. Each imerpervious class represents urbanization starting in a different image. The algorithm also allows us to remove inconsistent training samples because impervious expansion is not reversible during the study period. The objective is to extract a time series of complete and consistent impervious surface maps from a corresponding times series of images collected from multiple sensors, and with a minimal amount of image preprocessing effort. The approach was tested in the lower Yangtze River Delta region, one of the fastest urban growth areas in China. Results from nearly four decades of medium-resolution satellite data from the Landsat Multispectral Scanner (MSS), Thematic Mapper (TM), Enhanced Thematic Mapper plus (ETM+) and China-Brazil Earth Resources Satellite (CBERS) show a consistent urbanization process that is consistent with economic development plans and policies. The time-series impervious spatial extent maps derived from this study agree well with an existing urban extent polygon data set that was previously developed independently. The overall mapping accuracy was estimated at about 92.5% with 3% commission error and 12% omission error for the impervious type from all images regardless of image quality and initial spatial resolution.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

International Journal of Remote Sensing


Gao, Feng
De Colstoun, Eric Brown
Ma, Ronghua
Weng, Qihao
Masek, Jeffrey G.
Chen, Jin
Pan, Yaozhong
Song, Conghe H.