Improving Nighttime Light Imagery with Location-Based Social Media Data

Naizhuo Zhao, Wei Zhang, Ying Liu, Eric L. Samson, Yong Chen, Guofeng Cao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Location-based social media have been extensively utilized in the concept of "social sensing" to exploit dynamic information about human activities, yet joint uses of social sensing and remote sensing images are underdeveloped at present. In this paper, the close relationship between the number of Twitter users and brightness of nighttime lights (NTL) over the contiguous United States is calculated and geotagged tweets are then used to upsample a stable light image for 2013. An associated outcome of the upsampling process is the solution of two major problems existing in the NTL image, pixel saturation, and blooming effects. Compared with the original stable light image, digital number (DN) values of the upsampled stable light image have larger correlation coefficients with gridded population (0.47 versus 0.09) and DN values of the new generation NTL image product (0.56 versus 0.52), i.e., the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite day/night band image composite. In addition, total personal incomes of states are disaggregated to each pixel in proportion to the DN value of the pixel in the NTL images and then aggregate by counties. Personal incomes distributed by the upsampled NTL image are closer to the official demographic data than those distributed by the original stable light image. All of these results explore the potential of geotagged tweets to improve the quality of NTL images for more accurately estimating or mapping socioeconomic factors.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8506604
Pages (from-to)2161-2172
Number of pages12
JournalIEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2019


  • Location-based social media
  • United States demographics
  • nighttime light (NTL) imagery
  • upsampling


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