25 Years of Growth in Las Vegas

From NASA’s Earth Observatory:

These images of the western portion of the Las Vegas metropolitan area show the city’s steady spread into the adjacent desert landscape. Undeveloped land appears along the left edges of the top two images. Here, the land on the city’s outskirts appears in shades of beige and tan, with just a hint of the street grid to come. By 1989, however, development filled the upper left corner—a residential area, complete with curving roads and semicircle streets. In subsequent images, development spreads southward, and by 2004, the entire image shows cityscape, including Interstate 215 passing through southwestern portion of the city.

In these images, buildings and paved areas appear in shades of gray or beige, the clearest example being the McCarran International Airport near the bottom center of each image. Meanwhile, the occasional park or meandering golf course appears green-brown. Perhaps the most conspicuous golf course appears in the lower left of each image. The course was still being developed in 1984, but appeared complete in later shots. In the 2009 image, grassy areas appear less intense in color, and their lighter hues likely result from the time of year that Landsat acquired the image. In the same image, patches of dark colors appear along the Las Vegas strip, thanks to tall buildings casting their shadows toward the northwest.


  1. Well, McGee, they do have this thing called the Colorado River nearby. Also, LV was originally established because it was a natural spring in the middle of the desert.

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