Journal of Geo-information Science ›› 2020, Vol. 22 ›› Issue (7): 1449-1462.doi: 10.12082/dqxxkx.2020.190808

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Spatial and Temporal Characteristics of Socio-Economic Development in Central Asia based on A Series of Nighttime Light Images from 1992 to 2017

ZHU Hui1,2(), ZHANG Qingling1,3,*(), ZHANG Shan1,2   

  1. 1. Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Urumqi 830011, China;
    2. Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China;
    3. School of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou 510275, China
  • Received:2019-12-27 Revised:2020-03-04 Online:2020-07-25 Published:2020-09-25
  • Contact: ZHANG Qingling;
  • Supported by:
    National Key R&D Program of China(2017YFB0504204);Hundred Talents Program of Chinese Academy of Science(2015,张清凌)


This paper takes Central Asian as study area, including Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. Since the independence of these countries, they have experienced many significant events, such as political and economic reforms, the Russian financial crisis, the global financial crisis, and the fluctuation of international raw material prices. In order to study the socio-economic developments and changes of Central Asia in the past 30 years (1992—2017), based on DMSP/OLS, NPP/VIIRS, and yearbook data, this paper analyzes the spatiotemporal developments and their driving factors using the total Night-time Light (SNL) index, the Night-time Light Growth Rate (PNLG), as well as the socio-economic data. The results show that: (1) Night-time light can better characterize the spatiotemporal changes of the socio-economic development. Also, night-time light is more intuitive and sensitive than the socio-economic parameters such as GDP; (2) The socio-economic reforms in the early period of independence had a large and wide impact on Central Asia. The SNL of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan declined largely. Only the SNL of Turkmenistan increased by 4.5%; (3) Due to differences in basic socio-economic conditions and the richness of natural resources, the gaps of night-time light in Central Asian countries have gradually widened, and the abilities to withstand risks have greatly varied. For example, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan are rich in natural resources, especially oil and gas, while Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan have few natural resources. When the 2008 global financial crisis occurred, Kazakhstan was least affected (PNLG= -3.6%) while Tajikistan was most affected (PNLG = -36.4%); (4) Central Asian countries are susceptible to the impact of international energy market prices, especially the increase of oil and gas prices. The sharp rise in the price of international raw materials market in 2000, especially the price of oil and gas, had led to a sharp rise in SNL and a quick rebound in economy of Central Asian countries. However, the decline of international oil and gas prices in 2015 hammered the development of Central Asian countries who heavily relied on the exports of oil and gas. Based on the nighttime light images from 1992 to 2017, this paper studies the spatiotemporal characteristics of socio-economic development in Central Asian countries in nearly 30 years since the independence, and then explores the driving factors. This study can provide decision-making reference for the security guarantee of Central Asia and the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative.

Key words: Central Asia, DMSP/OLS, NPP/VIIR, nighttime light, remote sensing, social and economic development, GDP, natural resources