Satellite research: Germany’s greenest cities

Satellite research: Germany’s greenest cities

Organisation: Berliner Morgenpost (Interactive Team) (Germany)

Publication Date: 04/05/2017

Size of team/newsroom:small


Many cities claim to have a lot of green space: Berlin views itself as a particularly green city. Citing the size of their public parks, both Hannover and Halle have even promoted themselves as the greenest cities in Germany. However, concentrating on this measure alone ignores other green areas, such as planted rooftops, private gardens, trees on city streets, and grassy courtyards. We have analysed satellite images and show how green Germany really is for the first time, using an interactive map and a ranking of Germany’s major cities. For all 79 cities in Germany with more than 100,000 residents, data is provided on the total green area, the portion of the city covered with vegetation, and the green area per capita. In addition to the comparison of the 79 cities, the application also provides a ranking of the 14 cities in Germany with more than 500,000 residents. A supplementary graphic also highlights how the green area in Germany changes from month to month.

What makes this project innovative? What was its impact?

Today, almost one in three Germans lives in a major city. More and more people are moving to these metropolises, although many don’t want to give up living close to nature. Rankings on the greenest cities are nothing new. However, as these rankings have been based on the statistical data of individual cities (which use different methods to determine their level of vegetation), they are difficult to compare. In addition, none of the previous methods take account all of the vegetation in the area. The Berliner Morgenpost’s interactive team has broken new ground with their satellite research. They applied geoinformatic techniques and methods, used Google Earth Engine, and were supported by scientists and academics in developing the application. The team analysed a total of 185 satellite images and assembled them to form a new, detailed picture of Germany. This made the greenery in Germany not only visible, but also quantifiable, allowing a comparison of cities using a uniform standard.

Technologies used for this project:

The application used Google Earth Engine. This platform is aimed primarily at scientists and academics, who can easily access pre-calculated data and NASA’s Landsat Program images. Using this data, the NDVI (normalized difference vegetation index) was determined, and the green portion of Germans cities ultimately quantified. Other technologies used in the application include: Leaflet / Mapbox.


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