Forecasting urban growth across the United States-Mexico border

Laura M. Norman, Mark Feller, D. Phillip Guertin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


The sister-city area of Nogales, Arizona, and Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, is known collectively as Ambos (both) Nogales. This area was historically one city and was administratively divided by the Gadsden Purchase in 1853. These arid-lands have limited and sensitive natural resources. Environmental planning can support sustainable development to accommodate the predicted influx of population. The objective of this research is to quantify the amount of predicted urban growth for the Ambos Nogales watershed to support future planning for sustainable development. Two modeling regimes are explored. Our goal is to identify possible growth patterns associated with the twin-city area as a whole and with the two cities modeled as separate entities. We analyzed the cross-border watershed using regression analysis from satellite images from 1975, 1983, 1996, and 2002 and created urban area classifications. We used these classifications as input to the urban growth model, SLEUTH, to simulate likely patterns of development and define projected conversion probabilities. Model results indicate that the two cities are undergoing very different patterns of change and identify locations of expected growth based on historical development. Growth in Nogales, Arizona is stagnant while the urban area in Nogales, Sonora is exploding. This paper demonstrates an application that portrays how future binational urban growth could develop and affect the environment. This research also provides locations of potential growth for use in city planning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)150-159
Number of pages10
JournalComputers, Environment and Urban Systems
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2009


  • Forecasting
  • Modeling
  • Predictions
  • Urban growth
  • Watershed

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Urban Studies


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