Huang, YH; Wu, CB; Chen, MX; Yang, J; Ren, HY (2020). A Quantile Approach for Retrieving the "Core Urban-Suburban-Rural" (USR) Structure Based on Nighttime Light. REMOTE SENSING, 12(24), 4179.

Accurate and timely information on the "core urban-suburban-rural" (USR) spatial structure in a metropolitan region is significant for both the scientific and policy-making communities. However, USR is usually considered as a single land use type, such as an impervious area, rather than three combined subcategories in remote-sensing image retrieval, especially for suburban areas, which obscures the details of the urbanization process. In this paper, we propose a quantile approach to retrieve the structure of USR based on stable nighttime light (NTL) data from the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program/Operational Linescan System (DMSP/OLS) and apply it in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei (JJJ) of China from 1995 to 2013. The key parameters of the NTL threshold, which is the maximum change point of the NTL intensity at the USR boundary, used to retrieve the three subcategories of USR are automatically defined based on the quantile approach with three iterations. Then, the overall accuracy and consistency of the retrieval results are evaluated using the corresponding visual interpretation map from Landsat images with a 30 m resolution. Moreover, the influence of parameter uncertainty is compared by introducing the human settlement index (HSI). According to the time-series analysis of USR retrieval in this study, the JJJ experienced rapid urbanization from 1995 to 2013, with the core urban area expanding by 7098 km(2) (average increase of 2.7 times), the suburban area expanding by 12,690 km(2) (average increase of 2.8 times), and the rural area increasing by 4986 km(2) (average increase of 0.38 times). The USR results retrieved based on the approach agree well with the validation of the visual interpretation map, with an overall accuracy (OA) of 0.904 and a kappa coefficient (KC) of 0.650 at the city level. The USR result with the HSI as the input shows that NTL is more suitable for USR structure retrieval as the NTL shows less uncertainty compared with other parameters such as the vegetation index (VI). This study proposes an improved quantile approach for USR mapping from NTL images on a regional scale, which will provide a useful method for urbanization dynamics analysis.