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Science Issues and Significant Impacts

From the objective stated above and in view of the given background, this research on urbanization and its impacts investigate a number science questions including:

In this research, observations (satellite, airborne, surface networks, census, demographic data, etc.) and model results (nesting climate, meteorological, gas, aerosol, and radiative parameters simultaneously from the global through urban scale) are anticipated to significantly address the above science questions. For example, we expect to quantify mega urban change and its impacts such as extreme increase in pollution.

The resulting product will ultimately present a unique resource which can be used not only as a global reference, but also a measure of urban change of the spatial distribution of human settlements in the decade of the 2000s for studies of urbanization, population distribution, land use, hazard vulnerability, and environmental and climate assessments. Because human settlements are important drivers of land use well beyond their immediate borders, achieving these objectives on a global scale would represent a major advance in our ability to systematically quantify the relationship among urban environment, human population, and other components of the Earth system.

Such a database will be significant as input and as verification to be used by urban and regional climate and air/groundwater pollution modelers interested in improved characterization of the land surface in urban areas, as well as by local and regional decision makers interested in improving regional-scale assessments of urban extent and associated infrastructure distribution. The database would also have utility in assessments of the consequences of land cover and land use change on ecosystem sustainability and the implications of climate and sea level changes and increased human activities on coastal developments.

The resulting data products would also have significant practical applications, especially in the area of hazard vulnerability assessment. In particular, the hazards community has long recognized the severe lack of data on the exposure of population and infrastructure to various types of hazards. We anticipate the research results to offer explanations on the pace and scale of urbanization and an understanding of what may lie ahead for urban environments in the coming decades.