Edinburgh NDVI Imagery

The image below is derived from two 10 metre resolution satellite images captured by the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-2 satellite on the (remarkably cloud-free for Scotland!) 29th of May 2020. I have created a mosaic of the two images, cropped that to the City of Edinburgh boundary, and calculated the NDVI (Normalised-Difference Vegetation Index) value for each pixel. NDVI is essentially a proxy for photosynthetically active vegetation, i.e., greenness! I have applied a green colour ramp to the NDVI scale, such that pixels with a greater proportion of healthy green vegetation within them appear in darker shades of green, and vegetation-free non-natural surfaces appear almost white. The area covered by this image is approximately 23 km east-west and 20 km north-south.

Anyone who knows the city will instantly be able to pick out familiar sights, from the airport and M8 in the west to the A1 heading out to East Lothian in the east. The Edinburgh City Bypass is clearly visible snaking around the south-western edge of the city, as is the harbour at Leith in the north east. This image also highlights why Edinburgh was recently ranked, on the basis of images exactly like this, the greenest city in the UK! Can you find your nearest greenspace in this image? Maybe it’s an obvious one like Corstorphine Hill in the west or Holyrood Park and Arthr’s Seat in the east, or the Braid Hills in the south. Perhaps you are a student living near the lozenge of green near the city centre that is the Meadows, or a resident on the north side of town near Inverleith Park and the city’s famous Botanic Gardens. Even the fairways of the city’s numerous golf courses can be seen (how many can you count?), and if you really know the city you might even be able to find the three big stadiums – Murrayfield, Tynecastle, and Easter Road! Even aspects of the history of the city can be discerned – did you notice the narrow ribbons of green, particularly apparent in the north of town, marking former railway lines now converted to bike and foot paths and largely covered by trees?

The longer you look at this image the more you see. Whether you know the city or not I would love to hear from you what you noticed! If you want to know what your own city would look like in an image like this just get in touch!

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