PROGRESS IN GEOGRAPHY ›› 2019, Vol. 38 ›› Issue (2): 205-223.doi: 10.18306/dlkxjz.2019.02.005

• Reviews • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Review and prospect of application of nighttime light remote sensing data

Yingbiao CHEN1,2(), Zihao ZHENG1,3,*(), Zhifeng WU1,2, Qinglan QIAN1   

  1. 1. School of Geographic Sciences, Guangzhou University, Guangzhou 510006, China
    2. Guangdong Provincial Engineering Technology Research Center for Geographical Condition Monitoring and Comprehensive Analysis, Guangzhou 510006, China
    3. Department of Land, Environment, Agriculture and Forestry (TESAF), University of Padua, 35020 Padova, Italy
  • Received:2018-04-08 Revised:2018-09-20 Online:2019-02-28 Published:2019-02-28
  • Contact: Zihao ZHENG;
  • Supported by:
    Natural Science Foundation of Guangdong Province, No. 2016A030313551;National Natural Science Foundation of China, No. 41671430.


In remote sensing research, night light remote sensing as an important branch of active development has attracted increasingly more attention from the fields of natural and social science research in recent decades. Different from traditional daytime optical satellite remote sensing that obtains ground object radiation information, nighttime light remote sensing is the acquisition of visible-near-infrared electromagnetic information transmitted from the Earth's surface under cloud-free conditions at night. Compared to the ordinary satellite remote sensing images, ground light intensity information recorded by the night light images directly reflects the difference of human activity. Therefore, it is widely used in urbanization research, extraction of impervious surfaces, estimation of socioeconomic indicators, major events assessment, ecological environment assessment, and other fields. At present, although research results based on nighttime light data are continuously accumulating, there is a general lack of systematic review of these results and the current reviews suffer from incomplete coverage and poor timeliness. Therefore, this article summarizes the research results of nighttime light data in recent decades and examines them from the aspects of data processing and technical approaches, urbanization application research, and parameterization. Finally, we identify the following three research hotspots: multi-source data fusion, application expansion, and short-period surface light monitoring.

Key words: nighttime light, DMSP/OLS, NPP-VIIRS, remote sensing, review