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The USGS Land Cover Institute (LCI)

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Urban Dynamics: Temporal Urban Mapping

Baltimore - Washington

Temporal Mapping and Spatial Analysis of Land Transformation Due to Urban Development

Temporal urban mapping develops a historical perspective of urban development by combining a variety of data sources into an integrated, multi-scale, and multi-resolution database. The database provides the baseline information to model and predict regional patterns of urbanization. Temporal urban mapping relies on modern mapping techniques, such as remote sensing and geographic information systems (GIS), to capture information from both historical and modern records. The database highlights the profound changes to the landscape that have incrementally developed over time.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in partnership with universities and other agencies is developing several temporal databases which document human-induced land transformations in large metropolitan areas. These databases utilize a combination of historic maps and satellite images in conjunction with digital line graphs (DLG), digital elevation models and local land use maps in their development. USGS's rich archive of topographic maps and Landsat satellite data inspired this research.

Computer animation is used effectively to illustrate the database and emphasize the impact of incremental urban growth. The primary goal of temporal urban mapping is the development of a database that accurately references changing geographical features which researchers and modelers can use as a tool in meaningful scientific inquiry.

Server Highlights:

Project Description


  • U.S. Geological Survey
    • EROS Data Center
    • Mapping Applications Center
  • University of Maryland Baltimore County
  • NASA
  • Bureau of Census
  • Library of Congress
  • Smithsonian Institution
  • Maryland Historic Trust