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Brightness of Nighttime Lights as a Proxy for Freight Traffic: A Case Study of China

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4 Author(s)
Jingru Tian ; Int. Sch. of Software, Wuhan Univ., Wuhan, China ; Naizhuo Zhao ; Samson, E.L. ; Shuliang Wang

Since economic reforms in 1978, China's huge growth has led to a rapid increase in demand for freight traffic. Timely assessments of past and current amounts of freight traffic are basis for predicting future demands of freight traffic and appropriately allocating transportation resources. Sum lights (summed digital number (DN) value of pixels of nighttime light imagery) for years 2000, 2004, and 2008 respectively are extracted from corresponding Defense Meteorological Satellite Program's Operational Linescan System (DMSP-OLS) stable lights annual image composites. The sum lights are then regressed on total freight traffic (TFT), railway freight traffic (RFT), and highway freight traffic (HFT), respectively, at the province level. Results show that sum light strongly correlates to TFT and HFT, so sum light can be used as a proxy for TFT and HFT at the province level. However, due to lack of strong correlations between RFT and GDP, sum light is not appropriate to be as a proxy of RFT. Finally we disaggregate each province/municipality's HFT to each pixel in proportion to the DN value of the pixel of the nighttime light image to produce a Chinese HFT map of 2008 with 1 km × 1 km resolution. Compared to traditional census-based freight traffic data, the freight traffic data derived from the nighttime light imagery contain more spatial information.

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Selected Topics in Applied Earth Observations and Remote Sensing, IEEE Journal of  (Volume:7 ,  Issue: 1 )