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Nighttime lights and population changes in Europe 1992–2012

  • Maria Archila
  • Ola Hall
  • Magnus Andersson
Publishing year: 2015
Language: English
Pages: 653-665
Publication/Series: Ambio: a Journal of Human Environment
Volume: 44
Issue: 7
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Springer

Abstract english

Nighttime satellite photographs of Earth reveal the location of lighting and provide a unique view of the extent of human settlement. Nighttime lights have been shown to correlate with economic development and population but little research has been done on the link between nighttime lights and population change over time. We explore whether population decline is coupled with decline in lighted area and how the age structure of the population and GDP are reflected in nighttime lights. We examine Europe between the period of 1992 and 2012 using a Geographic Information System and regression analysis. The results suggest that population decline is not coupled with decline in lighted area. Instead, human settlement extent is more closely related to the age structure of the population and to GDP. We conclude that declining populations will not necessarily lead to reductions in the extent of land development.


  • Human Geography


  • ISSN: 0044-7447
E-mail: maria_francisca [dot] archila_bustos [at] keg [dot] lu [dot] se


Department of Human Geography


Doctoral student

Centre for Economic Demography


The Department of Human Geography
and the Human Ecology Division

Address: Sölvegatan 10,
223 62 Lund
Phone: 046-222 17 59

Faculty of Social Sciences