Mapping urban areas on a global scale: Which of the eight maps now available is more accurate?

David Potere, Annemarie Schneider, Shlomo Angel, Daniel L. Civco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Eight groups from government and academia have created 10 global maps that offer a ca 2000 portrait of land in urban use. Our initial investigation found that their estimates of the total amount of urban land differ by as much as an order of magnitude (0.27-3.52 × 106 km2). Since it is not possible for these heterogeneous maps to all represent urban areas accurately, we undertake the first global accuracy assessment of these maps using a two-tiered approach that draws on a stratified random sample of 10 000 high-resolution Google Earth validation sites and 140 medium-resolution Landsat-based city maps. Employing a wide range of accuracy measures at different spatial scales, we conclude that the new MODIS 500 m resolution global urban map has the highest accuracy, followed by a thresholded version of the Global Impervious Surface Area map based on the Night-time Lights and LandScan datasets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6531-6558
Number of pages28
JournalInternational Journal of Remote Sensing
Issue number24
StatePublished - 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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