New nighttime light data, new insights on how the Earth is changing

Satellite View of Manhattan, New York City, United States
Manhattan, New York City, United States. Photo by NASA on Unsplash

Much research has suggested that night-time lights can, to a certain degree, represent several variables, including urbanisation, density, and economic growth. 

To speed up research efforts and applications, the World Bank released open access, analysis-ready, nightlight data set under Amazon Web Services (AWS) open public data set program.

The Light Every Night (LEN) data set includes the complete archive of all nighttime imagery captured each night over the last three decades. It results from a collaboration between the World Bank, NOAA, and the University of Michigan. 

The dataset comprises:

  • Defense Meteorological Satellite Program Operational Line-Scan System (DMSP-OLS) data from 1992 to 2017
  • Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite Day/Night Band (VIIRS-DNB) data from 2012 to 2020

Analysis ready data, new possibilities 

Image by Comfreak from Pixabay

Previously, getting data from a specific night or set of nights meant:

  1. Downloading the images from NOAA archives to a local disk
  2. Manipulating the images with either GIS/Remote Sensing software or image viewing software like Photoshop or Gimp

Unfortunately, because the dataset volume is large, their useability is reduced.

The LEN dataset and tools eliminate this challenge.

Availability on AWS makes the global nighttime images widely accessible. Further, data processing can be done in-place on the cloud, enabling analysis of vast amounts of data leading to new insights and applications. 

In fact, the data has already been useful to various World Bank studies, including monitoring the impact of the pandemic on various human activities. 

Apart from the LEN dataset, the World Bank has also provided tutorials on nighttime light data processing, analysis, and applications.

Are you using nighttime lights data? Tell us about it below.

Rose Njambi is fascinated by all things geospatial. Besides being a geospatial engineer, she's an aspiring writer. She's always eager to learn about how different people are applying geospatial technologies. Rose lives in Kenya. She divides her time between her hometown, Nakuru, and the capital, Nairobi. Find her on her website or connect with her on LinkedIn.



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