Developing a temporal database of urban development for the Baltimore/Washington region

By: , and 



The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), and the U.S. Bureau of the Census are working together as a multiagency, multidisciplinary team in developing a temporal database that documents the growth of the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan region. This database consists of urban development, principal transportation, shoreline, and population density change. The urban development theme, considered a primary data layer in the study of urban land transformation resulting from human impact on the land, is the focus of this paper.

The Baltimore-Washington Spatial Dynamics and Human Impacts Study builds on earlier research efforts that mapped urban land use change for the San Francisco Bay area (Acevedo and Bell, 1994; Bell and others, 1995; Kirtland and others, 1994). In developing a temporal database (Acevedo and others, in press), the team participants hope to provide data that can be used to study patterns of urban growth; assess ecological, environmental, and climatic impacts of urban change; and model and predict future urbanization patterns and impacts (Clarke and others, 1996). Both the San Francisco and Baltimore-Washington regions were selected because of the rapid urban growth and resulting impacts on their ecosystems. The Chesapeake Bay region in particular has undergone extensive environmental agitation due to the hydrologic problems that have arisen from the increase in impermeable surfaces and structures, that is buildings and pavement that physically cover the soil. Because of the inability of water to percolate into the ground, little purification occurs by filtration. Water runs over paved surfaces and quickly washes high levels of toxins directly into the water system. Toxins like gasoline, oil, and fertilizer have dramatically affected the local streams, rivers, and the bay.

This paper describes the techniques used to map the extent of urban areas for Phase I and does not discuss Phase II in detail because the work is still in progress. In this study, urban development is defined as areas of intensive use, with much of the land covered by structures. The built-up areas are characterized by the existence of a systematic street pattern, and the relative concentration of buildings and associated intensive use areas, such as parking lots. Using this definition, urban development does not refer to political boundaries and may include incorporated or unincorporated areas as well as military reservations.

To build the urban component of the temporal database, a multidisciplinary team was assembled and a phased approach initiated. Expanding on procedures developed for the San Francisco Regional Study (Bell and others, 1995), the team developed data definitions, a classification scheme, compilation criteria, mapping specifications, guidelines for source materials, and metadata specifications to support development of a logically consistent dataset. Extensive documentation procedures were established to ensure consistency in data collection, and for subsequent application to other regions. Phase II was the implementation of the regional mapping effort.

The study area for Phase I consisted of an approximate area of 15- by 15-minute segment centered around the city of Baltimore (fig. 1). Phase I was used as a prototype for the technique development and integration that the multiagency collaborative effort would require. The regional study, Phase II, encompassed a 2-degree square centered on Washington, D.C. With more than 7 million people spread across 39 counties, the Baltimore-Washington region is one the Nation's fastest growing metropolitan areas. The two cities are rapidly merging into one.

Additional publication details

Publication type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Conference Paper
Title Developing a temporal database of urban development for the Baltimore/Washington region
Year Published 1996
Language English
Publisher American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing
Contributing office(s) Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center
Larger Work Type Book
Larger Work Subtype Conference publication
Larger Work Title ASPRS/ACSM Annual Convention and Exhibition, Baltimore, Md., 20–26 April 1996, Proceedings
Conference Title ASPRS/ACSM Annual Convention and Exhibition
Conference Location Baltimore, Maryland
Conference Date April 20-26, 1996
Country United States
State Maryland
Other Geospatial Baltimore-Washington Region