This study analyzes the characteristics of land use/land cover change in Jordan’s Irbid governorate, 1984–2018, and predicts future land use/land cover for 2030 and 2050 using a cellular automata-Markov model. The results inform planners and decision makers of past and current spatial dynamics of land use/land cover change and predicted urban expansion, for a better understanding and successful planning. Satellite images of Landsat 5-thematic mapper and Landsat 8 operational land imager for the years 1984, 1994, 2004, 2015 and 2018 were used to explore the characteristics of land use/land cover for this study. The results indicate that the built-up area expanded by 386.9% during the study period and predict further expansion by 19.5% and 64.6% from 2015 to 2030 and 2050 respectively. The areas around the central and eastern parts of the governorate are predicted to have significant expansion of the built-up area by these dates, which should be taken into consideration in future plans. Land use/land cover change and urban expansion in Irbid are primarily caused by the high rate of population growth rate as a direct result of receiving large numbers of immigrants from Syria and Palestine in addition to the natural increase of population and other socio-economic changes.
- Land use and land cover types have been changing in Irbid governorate, Jordan due to rapid population and urban growth;
- Fertile plains in the study area have been converted to built-up land, a trend that will become the main feature of LULC in the future;
- The irrigated areas have increased, with intensive use of land, to meet the population demand for food;
- The CA-Markov model proved to be a powerful tool for analyzing LULC dynamic change and predicting future scenarios.