Patterns in Regional Productivity and Night-time Lights

Mapping economic activity from night lights | Resilience Science.

Night-time light remote sensing data has been shown to correlate with national-level figures of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Night-time radiance data is analysed here along with regional economic productivity data for 11 European Union countries along with the United States at a number of sub-national levels. Night-time light imagery was found to correlate with Gross Regional Product (GRP) across a range of spatial scales.

In other words, the more light visible from that place at night, the higher their level of development, and the more money the region produces from its economic activities.

On the US map, BosWash (the megalopolis extending from Boston to Washington, DC) is easy to spot, and so are the major metropolitan areas of Texas.  In Europe, the Po River valley stands out in northern Italy, as does the Rhine in Germany.  Both are industrialized, densely populated areas.

As one moves further west in the US, levels of economic development drop – farms and ranches predominate, and they do not generate high levels of economic productivity.

The former East Germany stands out on the map of European productivity – they still have quite a ways to go to catch up with their Western cousins.

I find the connections between the cities (readily apparent on the US map) to be interesting.  Numerous roads lead into Chicago from all across the region; however, further west, the roads tend to run in N-S and E-W directions.

I am looking forward to using these maps in class – what geographic patterns and processes will my students see in them?

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