Urban expansion in Asia, 1999-2009, as seen with the SeaWinds scatterometer


Buildings and other metropolitan/industrial structures are efficient microwave backscattering surfaces, and so urban/industrial construction causes microwave backscatter to increase. We analyze a ten-year record of SeaWinds Quikscat Ku-band microwave backscatter from East, South, and Southeast Asia to document the expansion of major metropolitan and industrial areas in that region during the past decade (1999-2009). We identify ~40 major metropolitan regions that show substantial increases in both extent and backscatter brightness. These are primarily in China and South Korea, and, to a much lesser extent, in India and Vietnam. The strongest expansion signals occur in four regions: (1) southern China around the Zhujiang River Estuary from Hong Kong to Macau and particularly Shenzhen and Guangzhou; (2) eastern China around the lower Yangtze River from Shanghai to Nanjing and to Hangzhou and Ningbo; (3) northern China around Beijing and Tianjin; and (4) in South Korea around Seoul and Busan. We quantify the backscatter increase, and relate it to other metrics of metropolitan expansion, including maps of land-cover change derived from Landsat and socio-economic data.


Earth Sciences, Earth Systems Research Center

Publication Date


Journal Title

Fall Meeting, American Geophysical Union (AGU)


American Geophysical Union Publications

Document Type

Conference Proceeding