GEO logo
         GEOSS Portal Button

GEO 2017-2019 Work Programme


Global Urban Observation and Information

Activity ID: 125


The Global Urban Observation and Information Initiative has set the following goals for the period of 2017-2019: (1) Improving the coordination of urban observations, monitoring, forecasting, and assessment initiatives worldwide; (2) Supporting the development of a global urban observation and analysis system; (3) Producing up-to-date information on the status and development of the urban system - from local to global scale; (4) Filling existing gaps in the integration of global urban observation with data that characterize urban ecosystems, environment, air quality and carbon emission, indicators of population density, environmental quality, quality of life, and the patterns of human environmental and infectious diseases; and (5) Developing essential urban variables and indicators for sustainable cities for the SDG 11.

While some activities are continuous in nature or are extensions of the GEO 2012-2015 Work Plan SB-04 activities (“Global Urban Observation and Information” Task), others are proposed anew. These activities of different organizations and countries are coalesced as one GEO initiative through collaborative and affiliated projects, annual symposia, international summer school, joint fieldworks, publications, and coordinated user engagement efforts. This Initiative will generate various data products of global urban areas using Earth Observation (EO) data, provide EO-based urban data services through various systems and tools, develop new models and algorithms to detect, assess, monitor, and model urban areas and environments, create new knowledge to fill the gaps in the integration of EO and other datasets for a better understanding of cities and develop essential urban variables and indicators for sustainable cities.

Activities for the period

  • Megacities Observation and Monitoring (MOM) program: Expanded from the Global Urban Supersites Initiative under GEO SB-04. These projects all focus on global urbanization of megacities and providing the data sets for municipalities for megacities in the world;
  • Continued generation of Global Human Settlement Layers at various international and national levels and seek synergies among them;
  • Implementing Virtual Global Urban Remote Sensing Laboratory through joint projects: The main objective is to develop an online tool for acquiring, processing, visualizing, and sharing of urban data sets;
  • Initiate a joint project of Impervious Surface Mapping in Tropical and Subtropical Cities - ISMiTSC (Asia, Africa, and South America): This initiative focuses on urban mapping and providing datasets and EO technology services to developing countries;
  • Establish a Global Institute of Sustainable Cities (GISC) - Explore EO as a enable technology for supporting GEO’s objectives on urban and coastal resilience by providing EO methods and technologies, supply objective information on the footprint of global urbanization, and develop essential urban variables and indicators for sustainable cities for the SDG 11;
  • Organize an Annual GEO Global Urban Observation Symposium;
  • Create an annual International Summer School to train and educate students and young researchers worldwide, which may be held in conjunction with Joint Field Work in Selected Cities/Regions.

User engagement

  • Users/stakeholders include the World Bank, UN Habitat, and local users;
  • Potential data users include: Local/regional/country scales; Involved institutions (meaning users) in the cities; Local/regional/national environment and planning agencies; EU directorate general regional policy (DG REGIO); and Energy suppliers.

Future plans

  • Collaboration with ISPRS, IEEE GRSS and Elsevier to showcase and disseminate research results;
  • Seek synergies with other GEO Flagships/Initiatives.



  • US National Land Cover Database (NLCD) production supported by the USGS and other 9 federal agencies in Multi-Resolution Land Characteristics (MRLC) consortium (annual budget US$ 6 mil);
  • German Remote Sensing Data Center (DFD) and German Aerospace Center (DLR) have annual budget to support global urban footprint production;
  • EO4Urban, funded by ESA, annual budget €100 000 during 2016-2017;
  • Sentinel4Urban, funded by the Swedish National Space Board, €108 000 (1Mkr)/year 2016-2019;
  • “Improving the Estimation of Impervious Surfaces Using Optical and Polarimetric SAR Data in Humid Subtropical Urban Areas” supported by Hong Kong Research Grants Council, 1/1/2016-12/31/2017, 611,000HKD;
  • TREASURE: Thermal Risk rEduction Actions and tools for SecURE cities, National Observatory of Athens is partner, Greece., DG ECHO funded project;
  • ARISTOTELIS-Urban: ‘Continuous Monitoring of the Distribution of Urban Temperatures in 5 Greek Cities’ in Excellence Research Programme GSRT (2015–2017) ARISTOTELIS “Environment, Space and Geodynamics/Seismology 2015-2017”. NOA is the beneficiary;
  • NASA Interdisciplinary Science Project, “Combining satellite data and models to assess the impacts of urbanization on the continental United States surface climate”;
  • NOAA’s National Geophysical Data Center has a long standing program to generate and provide open access to global nighttime lights from satellite data;
  • Global Talents Program of Fujian Province, China, in support of creation of Global Institute of Sustainable Cities;
  • ASTER Global Urban Area Map (AGURAM) developed by National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology of Japan and University of Tokyo;
  • ABCC (CEODE, CAS & JRC): National Science Foundation of China (NSFC) project of “Comparative Study on Global Environmental Change Using Remote Sensing Technology”;
  • Urban impervious surface data generation for selected Chinese cities, supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 71503099), RMB¥212,400, and Guangzhou Municipality Science Technology and Innovation Commission, RMB¥1,000,000;
  • Characterizing global urban areas and mapping global urbanization dynamics at 30 m resolution on a cloud computing platform by Chinese Academy of Sciences, 2016-2018.

In-kind (human resources):

  • Center for Urban and Environmental Change, Indiana State University, USA.

Additional in-kind contributions from the USA (NASA, USGS), China (Wuhan University, Xiamen University), Italy (University of Pavia), IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society (GRSS), and International Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ISPRS).



Members: Austria, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, Pakistan, Spain, Sweden, USA.

Participating Organizations: IEEE.

Linkages across the Work Programme

Initiatives: Earth Observations in Service of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; GEO VENER; GEO Human Planet Initiative.

Leadership & Contributors (this list is being populated)




Implementing Entity



Qihao Weng

United States

Indiana State University