Earthshots: Satellite Images of Environmental Change

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Often described as one of the world’s best cities to live, Copenhagen is growing steadily. That growth comes with challenges to keep it a desirable place to live.

In these false-color Landsat images, the urban areas of Copenhagen are shades of purple. Vegetation appears green, and farmland appears bright green when crops are growing and pink when the fields are fallow.

The Øresund Strait separates Copenhagen from Malmö, Sweden. The strait and other water bodies appear black.

In the time that these images span, the population of Copenhagen has grown from 478,615 in 1985 to 580,184 in 2015. But the population of greater Copenhagen in 2014 was 1,246,611, up from 1,084,885 in 2006.

Map of the featured area.

In 1947, Copenhagen established the Five Finger Plan. The plan for the city’s growth designated five corridors of urban development, which were along railway lines to provide convenient transportation to Copenhagen’s business district in the central part of the city. Planned suburbs were to be built along these corridors and linked together like beads on a string.

The development plan resembles a hand with five fingers stretching out away from the city center. The plan allowed for controlled urban growth while leaving space open for recreation and agriculture. These green spaces were to occupy the land between the fingers.

As the series of images shows, the five fingers and hand shape are indeed vaguely recognizable. In these false-color images, the developed areas are shades of purple. Buildings and pavement are very reflective. On the other hand, water reflects very little sunlight, so it shows up as black.

One solution to accommodate Copenhagen’s population growth is to grow inwardly as well as outwardly. Growth near the central part of the city will help encourage commuters to use mass transit and bicycles to commute to and from work.

Nordhavn is an artificial peninsula on the Øresund coast. Nordhavn is the northernmost extension off the coast of the central part of the city. Once a harbor for container traffic and cruise ships, Nordhavn is becoming a new trend in urban development. Development of the area began in 2011, and plans are to continue development for the next several decades.

This development is bringing the peninsula a new identity. It will become a mixture of housing, businesses, public spaces, parks, natural areas, and cafés. Dense urban development will minimize energy consumption used for transportation. People will find cycling, walking, and public transportation the easy and obvious choice.

An artificial island first appears in the Øresund Strait in the 1998 image. The 4-km-long (2.5-mile-long) island is called Peberholm and was built from material dredged from the seabed. It’s a key point in the construction of the Øresund Link, which connects Copenhagen and Malmö.

Open for traffic since 2000, the Øresund Link is made up of three segments. Starting from Copenhagen on the northern end of the airport, the link begins with an underwater tunnel that is 3,510 meters (2.2 miles) long. The roadway on Peberholm Island is 4,055 meters (2.5 miles) long. Finally, Øresund Bridge spans the rest of the strait to Malmö. The cable-stayed bridge is 7,845 meters (4.9 miles) long and is visible as the thin line curving from the island to Malmö.


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