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Phoenix, Arizona, and its suburbs are growing rapidly, both in population and area. Landsat images show striking changes in the Phoenix metropolitan area in only a few decades. The most noticeable change is residential areas spreading over agricultural fields, which are shown in the images as bright red squares and rectangles. But in other areas, the urban growth expands over what was once bare desert.

New residents and tourists are attracted to Phoenix by the warm weather and abundant sunshine. Phoenix has maintained rapid and sustained growth, and its location in a wide valley allows neighborhoods to be built with houses that can have a lot of space around them. From 1970 to 2022, the population of the Phoenix metropolitan area grew by 416 percent.

Phoenix doesn’t have many cloudy days, so it’s perfect for studying urban growth with satellite images. Scientists and city planners study population growth and urban expansion in fast-growing cities like Phoenix to determine the changes that have occurred over time and to see how those changes impact the surrounding environment, affect the availability of natural resources such as water, and alter the landscape and how it’s used. That information can help people plan for future changes as cities continue to grow.

Population of Greater Phoenix
Year Population
2022 5,015,678
2010 4,192,887
2000 3,251,876
1990 2,122,887
1980 1,509,052
1970 971,228
1960 663,510
1950 331,770
1940 186,193


Every picture has a story to tell
Oct. 16, 1972, Landsat 1 (path/row 39/37) — Phoenix, Arizona, USA
Sept. 22, 1984, Landsat 5 (path/row 37/37) — Phoenix, Arizona, USA
July 8, 1991, Landsat 5 (path/row 37/37) — Phoenix, Arizona, USA
Oct. 15, 2001, Landsat 7 (path/row 37/37) — Phoenix, Arizona, USA
Oct. 19, 2011, Landsat 5 (path/row 37/37) — Phoenix, Arizona, USA
Aug. 19, 2018, Landsat 8 (path/row 37/37) — Phoenix, Arizona, USA
Sept. 18, 2023, Landsat 8 (path/row 37/37) — Phoenix, Arizona, USA


Additional story information
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Auch, Roger, Taylor, Janis, and Acevedo, William, 2004, Urban growth in American cities—Glimpses of U.S. Urbanization: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1252, 52 p. Available online at

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