Transformative Urban Changes of Beijing in the Decade of the 2000s

Alessandro Sorichetta, Son V. Nghiem, Marco Masetti, Catherine Linard, Andreas Richter

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The rapid economic growth, the exodus from rural to urban areas, and the associated extreme urban development that occurred in China in the decade of the 2000s have severely impacted the environment in Beijing, its vicinity, and beyond. This article presents an innovative approach for assessing mega-urban changes and their impact on the environment based on the use of decadal QuikSCAT (QSCAT) satellite data, acquired globally by the SeaWinds scatterometer over that period. The Dense Sampling Method (DSM) is applied to QSCAT data to obtain reliable annual infrastructure-based urban observations at a posting of ~1 km. The DSM-QSCAT data, along with different DSM-based change indices, were used to delineate the extent of the Beijing infrastructure-based urban area in each year between 2000 and 2009, and assess its development over time, enabling a physical quantification of its urbanization which reflects the implementation of various development policies during the same time period. Eventually, as a proxy for the impact of Beijing urbanization on the environment, the decadal trend of its infrastructure-based urbanization is compared with that of the corresponding tropospheric nitrogen dioxide (NO2) column densities as observed from the Global Ozone Monitoring Experiment (GOME) instrument aboard the second European Remote Sensing satellite (ERS-2) between 2000 and 2002, and from the SCanning Imaging Absorption SpectroMeter for Atmospheric CHartographY aboard of the ESA’s ENVIronmental SATellite (SCIAMACHY /ENVISAT) between 2003 and 2009. Results reveal a threefold increase of the yearly tropospheric NO2 column density within the Beijing infrastructure-based urban area extent in 2009, which had quadrupled since 2000.
Original languageEnglish
Article number652
Number of pages24
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 16 Feb 2020


  • Beijing
  • change indices
  • dense sampling method
  • tropospheric NO<sub>2</sub> columns
  • urbanization
  • Change indices
  • Dense sampling method
  • Tropospheric NO columns
  • Urbanization


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