Landsat

Since 1972, Landsat satellites have consistently gathered data about our planet for the benefit of the U.S. and the world. The Landsat data archive is the longest continuous remotely sensed global record of Earth’s surface, with all the data free and available to the public. The Landsat satellite missions, jointly managed by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey, are a central pillar of our national remote sensing capability and established the U.S. as a leader in land imaging.

Landsat 9 is the next satellite in the program, and will add more than 700 scenes a day to this invaluable archive. As Earth’s population approaches 8 billion, Landsat 9 will extend our ability to detect and characterize land surface changes, and will do so at a scale where researchers can differentiate between natural and human-induced change.

Land cover and land use are changing globally at rates unprecedented in human history. These changes bring profound consequences for weather, ecosystems, resource management, the economy, carbon storage and emissions, human health, and other aspects of society. Landsat datasets are a critical tool in monitoring and managing essential resources in a changing world.

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How It Works

  • A Trip Through Time with Landsat Nine
    2021.09.01
    For half a century, the Landsat mission has shown us Earth from space. Now, come along with us on a ‘roadtrip’ through the decades to see how the technology on this NASA and U.S. Geological Survey partnership has evolved with the times to provide an unbroken data record. Our roadtrip begins with the idea for an Earth-observing sensor in the 1960s and then cruises through the first game-changing launches in the 1970s, the advent of natural color composite images in the 1980s, the increased global coverage in the 1990s, the move to free and open data archives in the 2000s, the modern era of Landsat observations in the 2010s, and now the launch of Landsat 9 in 2021. Landsat satellites have allowed us to better manage our natural resources, and will continue to help people track the effects of climate change into the future.
  • Landsat 9 Spacecraft Animations and Stills
    2019.07.26
    Landsat 9 is a collaboration between NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey, and will continue the Landsat program’s critical role in monitoring, understanding and managing the land resources needed to sustain human life. The mission will provide moderate-resolution (15 meter to 100 meter, depending on spectral frequency) measurements of the Earth's terrestrial and polar regions in visible, near-infrared, short wave infrared, and thermal infrared wavelengths. There are two instruments on the spacecraft, the Thermal InfraRed Sensor 2 (TIRS-2) and the Operational Land Imager 2 (OLI-2). Landsat 9 will provide continuity with the nearly 50-year long Landsat land imaging data set. In addition to widespread routine use for land use planning and monitoring on regional to local scales, support of disaster response and evaluations, and water use monitoring, Landsat measurements directly serve NASA research in the focus areas of climate, carbon cycle, ecosystems, water cycle, biogeochemistry, and Earth surface/interior. The Landsat program is the only U.S. satellite system designed and operated to repeatedly observe the global land surface at a moderate scale that shows both natural and human-induced change.
  • Landsat Lightpath Animations
    2021.01.12
    Data collection of the OLI instrument aboard Landsat 9
  • Landsat with Sentinel - Global Coverage
    2020.03.03
    Satellite data offers a broad, global view of land surface changes, but cloud cover interferes with collecting data. Landsat satellites provide observations every 16 days, and having two satellites reduces that to every 8 days. The European Space Agency Sentinel-2 satellites collect data in similar wavelengths and at a similar spatial resolution, enabling the data to be combined for even more observations. When harmonized into one data set, the result is global observations every two or three days at 30-meter resolution. Any application looking at very dynamic phenomena, where changes occur on the timescales of a few days or weeks, will benefit from the harmonized Landsat/Sentinel dataset. For example, crop condition and area, burned area, or surface water extent. Also, this will benefit any application where short-term environmental conditions (like drought) have a rapid impact on ecosystems.
  • Landsat Orbit Swath
    2014.02.11
    This visualization of the orbit of Landsat 8 is narrated by Jim Irons, LDCM Project Scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

    As a Landsat satellite flies over the surface of the Earth the instruments aboard the satellite are able to view a swath 185 kilometers wide and collect images along that swath as the satellite proceeds through its orbit. The spacecraft travels at approximately 4.7 miles per second. The satellite travels from north to south while it's over the sunlit portion of the Earth, and travels south to north over the dark side of the Earth. One orbit takes about 99 minutes, so that's about approximately 15 orbits in a 24 hour period. The orbit's maintained such that after 16 days, the entire surface of the Earth has come within view of the Landsat instruments, while sunlit, and then on day 17 the first ground path is repeated. So we get to view the entire surface once every 16 days.

  • Landsat 8 Onion Skin
    2014.02.24
    Landsat satellites circle the globe every 99 minutes, collecting data about the land surfaces passing underneath. After 16 days, the Landsat satellite has passed over every spot on the globe, and recorded data in 11 different wavelength regions. The individual wavelength bands can be combined into color images, with different combinations of the 11 bands revealing different information about the condition of the land cover. The data for this video was collected by Landsat 5 on November 10, 2011.
  • Landsat sensors: pushbroom vs whiskbroom
    2017.10.31
    Landsat collects images in long narrow strips called “swaths.” Each swath is 185 kilometers (115 miles) wide and is 2,752 kilometers (1,710 miles) from the next adjacent swath taken that day. It takes 16 days for the swaths to overlap enough to image the whole Earth. Previous Landsat sensors swept back and forth across the swath like a whisk broom to collect data. The sensor looked at a calibration source at the end of every row, which means that measurements were consistent from orbit to orbit. But this sensor design requires fast-moving parts, which are more likely to break.—and which did on Landsat 7. In contrast, the instruments on Landsat 8 view across the entire swath at once, building strips of data like a pushbroom. This approach requires no moving parts and gives the sensor detectors greater dwell time. The pushbroom instrument is smaller and lighter than previous whisk broom instruments, but its calibration is much more complex given the large number of detectors. “It was a natural step to evolve to a pushbroom sensor. The technology was proven on other satellites, and we knew we could get better accuracy. The pushbroom has no moving parts. It is a newer and more reliable technology.” explains Terry Arvidson, senior project engineer. For more information on the future of Landsat instruments, read https://landsat.gsfc.nasa.gov/landsat-9/instruments/.
  • Landsat 9 Teaser Promo
    2020.07.23
    Landsat 9 is the latest satellite to continue the legacy of global observations of Earth’s land surface. With unmatched longevity, accuracy, and coverage, the Landsat program has been the cornerstone of global land imaging since 1972. Landsat 9 continues this tradition, and will carry us into the next fifty years of Earth observations. The two instruments on-board will make the most advanced measurements of any Landsat satellite. Design and construction of the spacecraft and its instruments is managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, and operation and archiving of the data is managaed by the US Geological Survey. Goddard and Ball Aerospace each built one of the instruments, and the spacecraft was built by Northrop Grumman. The Landsat Program is a series of Earth-observing satellite missions jointly managed by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Landsat satellites have been consistently gathering data about our planet since 1972. They continue to improve and expand this unparalleled record of Earth's changing landscapes for the benefit of all.
  • Landsat 9: Continuing the Legacy series
    2020.11.30
    Five decades ago, NASA and the US Geological Society launched a satellite to monitor Earth’s land from space. It was the beginning of a legacy. The Apollo era had given us our first looks at Earth from space and inspired the idea of regularly collecting images of our planet. The first Landsat — originally known as the Earth Resources Technology Satellite, or ERTS — rocketed into space in 1972. Since then, there have been eight Landsats and we’re preparing to launch number nine. The Landsat legacy stretches far and wide. Using visible and infrared light, Landsat helps track the health of crops, shows ocean pollution, and tracks coral reefs, icebergs and more. Thanks to sensor that can record wavelengths beyond what we can see with our eyes, Landsat can record vital information about Earth's surface. Narrated by the actor Marc Evan Jackson, who played a Landsat scientist in the movie Kong: Skull Island (2017), this series of videos tells the story of Landsat 9. From the birth of the Landsat program to the present preparations for launching Landsat 9 and even a look to the future with Landsat NeXt. The early Landsat satellites carried a sensor that could “see” in visible light — like humans — plus a little bit of near-infrared light. Newer Landsats, including the coming Landsat 9 mission, have two sensors: the Operational Land Imager (OLI) and the Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS). Together, they see visible, near-infrared, shortwave-infrared, and thermal infrared wavelengths. By comparing observations of different wavelengths, scientists can identify algal blooms, storm damage, fire burn scars, the health of plants, and more. Landsat beams data down to ground stations on Earth, where it is recorded to four different drives as back up. The redundancy of data storage is really important. The Landsat legacy includes almost 50 years of observations of Earth from space — one of the longest space-based data records in existence. The length of Landsat’s data record is crucial for studying change over time. From the growth of cities, to the extension of irrigation in the desert, to insect damage to forests, to plant regrowth after a volcanic eruption, Landsat lets us see our planet change. As of 2008, all of that data is free to the public. Anyone can download and use Landsat imagery — for everything from beautiful art to studying how our planet is changing. For the last 50 years, Landsat satellites have shown us Earth in unprecedented ways, but they haven’t operated alone. When it comes to studying our home planet, Landsat works in conjunction with other satellites from NASA and partner agencies like NOAA and the European Space Agency, as well as private companies. The old adage about teamwork holds true here: It’s made observations of Earth better! After almost 50 years, the Landsat mission is still going strong. Every time a new satellite launches, it increases our knowledge of the planet we call home. Stay tuned for the launch of the newest Landsat satellite, coming Sept. 2021! The Landsat Program is a series of Earth-observing satellite missions jointly managed by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Landsat satellites have been consistently gathering data about our planet since 1972. They continue to improve and expand this unparalleled record of Earth's changing landscapes for the benefit of all.
  • Landsat—From the Archives
    2012.07.23
    The Landsat program is the longest continuous global record of Earth observations from space — ever. On July 23, 1972 NASA launched the first satellite in this program, then known as ERTS, the Earth Resources Technology Satellite and later renamed Landsat 1. In honor of that history, NASA edited together selections of an archive video from 1973 about the ERTS launch.

    Featured in this 1973 video was a senior geologist at NASA, Nicholas Short, and at Dartmouth College, Robert Simpson and David Lindgren.

    NASA and the U.S. Department of the Interior through the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) jointly manage Landsat, and the USGS preserves a nearly 50-year archive of Landsat data that is freely available over the Internet. The next Landsat satellite, known as Landsat 9, is scheduled for launch in 2021.

    For more information about Landsat visit www.nasa.gov/landsat, or landsat.usgs.gov

    To watch the entire 23-minute long NASA archive video of the ERTS Launch, go here.

  • OLI-2 ships to Northrop Grumman
    2019.09.27
    The Landsat 9 instrument that will help scientists detect deforestation, monitor crops and track potentially toxic algal blooms, among many other uses, is now built, tested, and in place to be assembled onto the spacecraft. The Operational Land Imager 2, or OLI-2, will detect visible and infrared light from Earth's surface, providing data on our changing planet. Like its predecessor that launched in 2013 on the Landsat 8 satellite, OLI-2 contains thousands of sensors that view a swath of Earth's surface in nine spectral bands, optimized to detect different features on the surface. OLI-2 was built and tested at Ball Aerospace in Boulder, Colorado. On Sept. 18, 2019, it was trucked from Boulder to the Northrop Grumman facility in Gilbert, Arizona, arriving the next day. Engineers at Northrop Grumman assemble and test the complete Landsat 9 spacecraft with OLI-2 and another instrument, the Thermal Infrared Sensor 2, or TIRS-2, which was built at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The Landsat series of satellites began with Landsat 1 in 1972, generating the longest continuous record of observing our planet's land surface from space. Landsat 9, a partnership between NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey, is currently scheduled to launch in December 2020.
  • TIRS-2 Ready For Integration
    2019.08.23
    From orbit aboard the Landsat 9 satellite, the Thermal Infrared Sensor-2, or TIRS-2, will measure the temperature of Earth's land surfaces, detecting everything from a smoldering wildfire, to the amount of irrigation used on crop fields, to wispy clouds that are all but invisible to other instruments. First, however, it had to survive tests that simulated the harsh environment of space. This month, TIRS-2 successfully passed the stringent 12-week testing process at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. It was shipped to Northrop Grumman’s facility in Arizona, where it and the Operational Land Imager-2 will be assembled onto the Landsat 9 spacecraft. Landsat 9 is a joint effort of NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey. Like digital cameras on a smart phone, the TIRS-2 instrument is an imager. But while a camera detects light reflected off an object, TIRS-2 detects the thermal energy that an object emits. The hotter a surface is, the more energy the instrument will detect. The Landsat mission has been observing Earth since 1972, building the longest continuous record from space of the planet’s forests, farms, cities, and other surfaces. Starting with Landsat 5 and continuing through the first TIRS instrument on Landsat 8, the satellites have carried instruments that can detect thermal energy as well as visible and infrared light – and water managers and others have put these observations to work.
  • Yellowstone Burn Recovery
    2012.07.23
    A combination of lightning, drought and human activity caused fires to scorch more than one-third of Yellowstone National Park in the summer of 1988. Within a year, burn scars cast a sharp outline on the 793,880 acres affected by fire, distinguishing wide sections of recovering forest, meadows, grasslands and wetlands from unburned areas of the park. After more than two decades, satellite instruments can still detect these scars from space.

    In the time-lapse video below, a series of false-color images collected by USGS-NASA Landsat satellites from 1987 to 2018 show the burning and gradual regeneration of Yellowstone's forests following the 1988 fire season. Watch as burn scars (dark red) quickly replace large expanses of healthy green vegetation (dark green) by 1989. Notice how the scars slowly fade over time as new vegetation begins to grow and heal the landscape.

    Landsat Project Scientist Jeff Masek has been studying the recovery of the forest after the 1988 Yellowstone fires. In the video below, he talks about how Landsat satellites detect the burn scars from space and distinguish them from healthy, un-burned forest and from new growth.

  • LDCM Launch footage
    2013.05.23
    The Landsat Data Continuity Mission launched on February 11, 2013, from Vandenberg Air Force Base aboard an Atlas V-401 rocket.

    LDCM will be renamed Landsat 8 when operations are handed over to the US Geological Survey on May 30, 2013. NASA and the U.S. Department of the Interior through the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) jointly manage Landsat, and the USGS preserves a 40-year archive of Landsat images that is freely available data over the Internet.

  • LDCM Overview
    2013.01.10
    The Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) is a collaboration between NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey that will continue the Landsat Program's 40-year data record of monitoring Earth's landscapes from space. LDCM will expand and improve on that record with observations that advance a wide range of Earth sciences and contribute to the management of agriculture, water and forest resources.

    The Landsat Program is a series of Earth-observing satellite missions jointly managed by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey. The first Landsat satellite launched in 1972 and the next satellite in the series, the Landsat Data Continuity Mission — LDCM, is scheduled to launch on February 11, 2013

  • TIRS - the Thermal Infrared Sensor on LDCM
    2012.02.14
    The Thermal InfraRed Sensor (TIRS) is one of the instruments on the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) satellite. It will continue the archive of thermal imaging and support emerging applications such as evapotranspiration rate measurements for water management. TIRS is being built by NASA GSFC and has a three-year design life.

    In February 2012, TIRS was shipped from GSFC to Orbital Sciences Corporation in Gilbert, Arizona to be integrated with the LDCM spacecraft.

    TIRS operates in a pushbroom mode to create images in two IR bands, centered at 10.8 and 12.0 microns, over a 185 km swath with a 100 m spatial resolution. The TIRS design includes cryogenically-cooled QWIP detector arrays and a steerable mirror to choose among 3 views: nadir for Earth observations, on-board warm blackbody for calibration, and deep space for calibration. The TIRS data will be registered to the OLI data to create radiometrically, geometrically, and terrain-corrected 12-bit LDCM data products.

  • TIRS TVAC1 Opening The Vacuum Chamber
    2011.10.30
    The Thermal InfraRed Sensor (TIRS) is part of the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) to continue thermal imaging and to support emerging applications such as evapotranspiration rate measurements for water management. TIRS is being built by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and has a three-year design life.

    TIRS completed its first round of thermal vacuum testing on Tuesday, October 4, marking the first time engineers evaluated the fully-assembled instrument at its normal operating temperature. When operational, TIRS is only 43 Kelvin (-382 °F). Such a cold temperature is necessary so the instrument itself does not overwhelm the heat radiated by Earth.

    The Landsat Program is a series of Earth observing satellite missions jointly managed by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey. Landsat satellites have been consistently gathering data about our planet since 1972. They continue to improve and expand this unparalleled record of Earth's changing landscapes for the benefit of all.

  • OLI Passes Pre-Ship Review
    2011.08.08
    The Operational Land Imager (OLI), built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., will fly on the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM). OLI will measure in the visible, near infrared, and short wave infrared portions of the spectrum, with an improved signal-to-noise ratio compared to past Landsat instruments.

    The Landsat program is a series of Earth-observing satellite missions jointly managed by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey. For nearly 40 years, Landsat satellites have continuously and consistently collected images of Earth, creating a historical archive unmatched in quality, detail, coverage and value. Freely available Landsat data provide a unique resource for people who work in agriculture, geology, forestry, regional planning, education, mapping and global change research.

  • Landsat Data Continuity Mission Video File
    2013.01.10
    The Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) is a collaboration between NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey that will continue the Landsat Program's 40-year data record of monitoring Earth's landscapes from space. LDCM will expand and improve on that record with observations that advance a wide range of Earth sciences and contribute to the management of agriculture, water and forest resources.

    The LDCM observatory was successfully launched aboard an Atlas V-401 rocket on February 11, 2013, from Vandenberg Air Force Base. The operation of the satellite will be handed over to the U.S. Geological Survey on May 30, 2013.

Benefits to Society

  • Landsat 9 at Work
    2021.07.26
    Landsat 9, launching September 2021, will collect the highest quality data ever recorded by a Landsat satellite, while still ensuring that these new measurements can be compared to those taken by previous generations of the Earth-observing satellite.
  • Landsat Helps Warn of Algae in Lakes and Rivers
    2021.03.22
    From space, satellites such as the NASA and USGS Landsat 8 can help scientists identify where an algal bloom has formed in lakes or rivers. It’s a complicated data analysis process, but one that researchers are automating so resource managers around the country can use the satellite data to identify potential problems. Nima Pahlevan and his team at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center have developed an algorithm to take the data collected by Landsat 8 over water, analyze it, and create a product for distribution. There are multiple, computationally intensive steps to get from the raw data to the usable product. This free-to-use data product makes it easier for more people to work with quality Landsat data. The Landsat Program is a series of Earth-observing satellite missions jointly managed by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Landsat satellites have been consistently gathering data about our planet since 1972. They continue to improve and expand this unparalleled record of Earth's changing landscapes for the benefit of all.
  • Technology Meets Conservation
    2020.11.17
    In a constantly changing world, the protection of our planet’s endangered species and ecosystems is a priority for ecologists. Recently, a group of researchers at the University of Idaho have worked to combine their extensive on-the-ground research of the endangered Yuma Ridgway’s rail with Landsat’s vast archive, to create a habitat suitability model that can be used by land managers. By using this model, it gives land managers the tools and data to make decisions of how to best carry out conservation for the Yuma Ridgway’s rail on a year to year basis. With the success of this initial model, it’s hypothesized that this tool will be able to help additional species in the area and others down the road.

    To view the map, click https://sites.google.com/view/habitatsuitability-yrr/home

    The Landsat Program is a series of Earth-observing satellite missions jointly managed by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Landsat satellites have been consistently gathering data about our planet since 1972. They continue to improve and expand this unparalleled record of Earth's changing landscapes for the benefit of all.

  • Go Now! Landsat & the Calypso Caper
    2021.08.12
    During the summer of 1975, Jacques Cousteau and his divers helped NASA determine if Landsat could measure the depth of shallow ocean waters. The story of this NASA-led satellite bathymetry experiment unfolds through the photography and expedition documents preserved by David Lychenheim, the expedition’s communications engineer. Research done during that expedition determined that in certain conditions Landsat could measure depths up to 22 meters (72 feet), which gave birth to the field of satellite-derived bathymetry. This new technology enabled charts in clear water areas around the world to be revised, helping boats and deep-drafted supertankers avoid running aground on hazardous shoals or seamounts.
  • Arctic Greening Driven by Warmer Temperatures
    2020.09.22
    As Arctic summers warm, Earth's northern landscapes are changing. Using Landsat satellite data to track global tundra ecosystems over decades, a new study found the region has become greener, as warmer air and soil temperatures lead to increased plant growth. Landsat data can be used to determine how much actively growing vegetation is on the ground – greening can represent plants growing more, becoming denser, and/or shrubs encroaching on typical tundra grasses and moss. Between 1985 and 2016, about 38% of the tundra sites across Alaska, Canada, and western Eurasia showed greening. Only 3% showed the opposite browning effect, which would mean fewer actively growing plants.
  • Bird's-eye View of Biodiversity with Landsat
    2020.04.17
    Global temperatures are rising, putting bird species across America in danger of extinction as their habitats change. To understand how temperature affects birds across the country, scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison compared data from the thermal sensor on Landsat 8, TIRS, to bird biodiversity across the country. Turns out, having a habitat with pockets of different temperatures – like a grove of trees in an open field, or a nest or snow burrow – is especially important for small-bodied bird species and those threatened by climate change. This bird’s-eye view of the relationship between temperature and bird biodiversity will help conservationists figure out where to prioritize their efforts in a warming world.
  • Landsat: Farming Data From Space
    2020.02.12
    As the climate of our home planet changes, some places are drying out and others are getting wetter, including the land that produces the food we eat. Farmers are learning how to adapt to changing climate conditions. NASA's fleet of satellites has been watching over Earth for more than half a century, collecting valuable data about the crops that make up our food supply and the water it takes to grow them. This wealth of information allows scientists to monitor farmland – tracking the overall food supply, where specific crops are grown, and how much water it takes to grow them with data from the Landsat satellites and others. And with that data, farmers can find new ways to grow more crops with less water. As our climate changes, it’s more important than ever for farmers to have the knowledge they need to adapt their farming practices to a warming world. The data collected by our Earth-observing fleet helps farmers learn about the planet that sustains us – and make better decisions about how to cultivate it. The Landsat Program is a series of Earth-observing satellite missions jointly managed by NASA and the USGS. Landsat satellites have been consistently gathering data about our planet since 1972. They continue to improve and expand this unparalleled record of Earth's changing landscapes for the benefit of all.
  • Tracking Agricultural Water Use from Space
    2015.10.15
    Water managers in 15 states across the United States currently use METRIC technology to track agricultural water use. METRIC measures evapotranspiration- the amount of water evaporating from the soil and transpiring from plant's leaves. This process cools the plant down so irrigated farm fields appear cooler (bluer) in Landsat satellite images. The thermal band data on Landsat satellites allows water specialists to measure ET. The latest evolution of METRIC technology- an application called EEFLUX, will allow anyone in the world to produce field-scale maps of water consumption, including on mobile devices. METRIC was developed in the early 2000s and to date, EEFLUX has been introduced to the California Department of Water Resources, the California Water Control Board, and the World Bank.
  • Landsat Helps Feed the Birds
    2015.09.24
    The BirdReturns program, created by The Nature Conservancy of California, is an effort to provide "pop-up habitats" for some of the millions of shorebirds, such as sandpipers and plovers, that migrate each year from their summer breeding grounds in Alaska and Canada to their winter habitats in California, Mexico, Central and South America. The route takes the birds along what’s called the Pacific Flyway, where they seek out the increasingly rare wetlands teeming with tasty insects to fuel their long-distance flights. The Nature Conservancy of California operates the BirdReturns program, with partners including Point Blue Conservation Science, Audubon California and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Over the last century, California's Central Valley has lost 95% of the wetlands habitat, which is needed for the shorebirds while on their migration. The solution involves big data, binoculars and rice paddies. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s eBird program collects on-the-ground observations, including species and date spotted, from bird watchers nationwide. With a recent NASA grant to Cornell, scientists created computer models to analyze that information and combine it with satellite remote sensing imagery from Landsat and the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer instruments on NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites. With these models, they could identify areas in the Central Valley where birds flocked to during the spring and fall migrations, as well as estimate the number of birds making the journey. Some of his colleagues had been using Landsat images to look at where – and when – there was standing water, to assist with surveys of shorebirds. The nonprofit Point Blue, based in Petaluma, California, developed models that can classify habitats based on Landsat imagery. For the BirdReturns project, the team analyzed 1,500 Landsat scenes between 2000 and 2011, and then additional images from Landsat 8 after its 2013 launch. For each area not blocked by clouds, they classified whether there was surface water. Matching the location and timing of surface water from Landsat with the route and timing of migrating shorebirds from eBird, the BirdReturns program looks for those key sites where extra water would make a difference for the birds, which forage for food in the wetland areas. The Nature Conservancy then uses a reverse auction where farmers try to submit the lowest bid to turn their empty fields into a pop-up wetland for the few weeks the birds are stopping in the Central Valley while on their migration. We would like to thank the Point Blue and The Nature Conservancy for supplying Central Valley water data. Least sandpiper data courtesy of Cornell Lab of Ornithology, eBird Basic Dataset. Version: EBD_relMay-2013. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. May 2013.
  • Lakes On A Glacier
    2015.08.17
    How deep is that icy blue water on Greenland's ice sheet? Dr. Allen Pope, of the National Snow and Ice Data Center, is using data from the NASA/USGS Landsat 8 satellite to find out. In this video, Dr. Pope shares what he sees when he looks at a Landsat image of the Greenland ice sheet just south of the Jakobshavn Glacier. Because the lakes are darker than the ice around them, they absorb more energy from the sun. A little bit of melt concentrates in one place, and then melts more, establishing a feedback mechanism accelerating the growth of the lake. When the lakes get big enough they can force open fractures that then drill all the way down to the bed of the glacier, transporting this water to the base where it can temporarily speed up the flow of the ice. Learn more about Dr. Pope's study here: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=86564 NASA and the U.S. Department of the Interior through the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) jointly manage the Landsat program, and the USGS preserves a 40-plus-year archive of Landsat images that is freely available over the Internet.
  • Wyoming Snowmelt 2013
    2015.03.23
    A NASA study of a basin in northwestern Wyoming revealed that the snowmelt season in the area is now ending on average about sixteen days earlier than it did from the 1970s through the 1990s.

    "The Wind River Range is a very high mountain range, with lots of snow," said Dorothy Hall, lead author of the study and a senior research scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "Earlier snowmelt impacts the water resources of most of the state of Wyoming, which has been undergoing a drought since 1999."

    Hall and her team analyzed snow maps derived from the NASA-U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Landsat satellite program, which has been operating since 1972. The scientists sorted through more than 1,000 Landsat scenes to create 227 snow maps for the 42-year period extending from 1972 to 2013. Much of the work to create snow maps for this study could not be automated, Hall said. For example, each map had to be checked manually to make sure clouds were not obscuring the snow in the basin.

    Because so few clear-sky Landsat images are available during the snowmelt season, the team developed a method to fill in the gaps. They plotted all available snow extent data for a given decade and used a computer program to fit a curve, connecting the observed data points. This showed the trend of the timing of snowmelt in each decade, though the changes can only be given as an approximation, because there weren’t enough data available to give precise dates.

    This video shows the progression of snowmelt in 2013, based on data from the Landsat 7 and the Landsat 8 satellite.

  • Vegetation Response to Lower Colorado River pulse flow in 2014
    2014.12.17
    It was 2000 the last time the Colorado River reached the Sea of Cortez, and over that time there has been a decline in the amount of healthy vegetation along the lower reaches of the river. In 2014, the U.S. and Mexico made an agreement, known as Minute 319, to release an experimental flow through the Morelos Dam and down the riverbed. On March 23rd, the floodgates were opened and the water started to flow. In total, 130 milion cubic meters (105,000 acre-feet) of water was sent through the dam. Though most of the water soaked into the ground in the first 37 miles, a portion of the flow did make it down to the delta. Water flowing on the surface reached areas that had been targeted for restoration, and the replenished groundwater revived vegetation along the entire route to the sea. Pamela Nagler, of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Southwest Biological Science Center in Tucson, Arizona, compared satellite images of pre-flow August 2013 to post-flow August 2014. Using data from NASA/USGS's Landsat satellite, as well as data from NASA's Terra satellite, she calculated a 43 percent increase in green vegetation along the route wetted by the flow, called the inundation zone, and a 23 percent increase in greening of the overall river bed from bank to bank, called the riparian zone. The Minute 319 pulse flow was the result of significant cooperation between a large group of partner organizations and agencies in the U.S. and Mexico, including the International Boundary and Water Commission, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the USGS, the Sonoran Institute, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Mexican Comision Nacional de Areas Naturales Protegidas, and others.
  • Monitoring Changes in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed
    2013.01.31
    Landsat is a critical and invaluable tool for characterizing the landscape and mapping it over time. Landsat data provides a baseline of observations for science about how human activities on the land affect water quality, affect wildlife habitat, affect air quality. The satellite imagery covers the entire 64,000 square miles of the Chesapeake Bay watershed (spanning six states and the District of Columbia). Without it we wouldn't be able to really understand how sources of nutrients and sediment have changed and where they are in the Chesapeake Bay.

    The Landsat Program is a series of Earth-observing satellite missions jointly managed by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey.

    The narration in this video is by Peter Claggett, a research geographer with the U.S. Geological Survey's Eastern Geographic Science Center. He has worked at the Chesapeake Bay Program Office since 2002, where he leads the Land Data Team that conducts research on land change characterization, analysis, and modeling in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

    The audio was adapted from a radio interview with EarthSky.org.

  • Landsat: Making a Difference, One User At A Time
    2012.09.27
    The Landsat Data Continuity Mission will continue the legacy of the 40-year Landsat program. This video examines two uses of Landsat data to monitor agriculture. Both wineries and timber companies rely on Landsat data to check whether their crops are getting enough (or too much) water and fertilizer.

    For complete transcript, click here.

  • Tracking Urban Change With Landsat
    2014.03.20
    For helping communities across the United States stay up-to-date on their flood risk, the NASA/USGS Landsat satellites can take a bow. The Federal Emergency Management Agency uses Landsat images, which can illustrate urban changes, as a key indicator of sites where the agency should further investigate the flooding potential. With its archive of images capturing sprawling cities and new developments, Landsat can help FEMA track how building and construction is impacting an area’s landscape

    Earth-observing Landsat satellites have been capturing images of the planet’s surface since 1972. Landsat 8 is the newest satellite in the program, a joint effort between NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey. It launched Feb. 11, 2013, and collects more than 400 images per day. New and archived Landsat data are available free to the public over the internet – and researchers have put the data to a multitude of uses. One is called the National Urban Change Indicator, or NUCI, created by MacDonald, Dettwiler, and Associates, LTD. It’s the results from a process that mines Landsat images over a 27-year period to identify areas of “permanent change,” where soil has been paved over for parking lots or other concrete structures.

    NUCI results act as a red flag for FEMA, helping the agency focus its mapping efforts and budget. But if maps identify a high risk of floods for a certain community, residents can take action, including elevating houses, building flood barricades, and more.

  • Mapping The Future With Landsat
    2012.06.18
    Many non-profits are using Landsat as a tool to identify and protect areas that are important for conservation. This video shows how The African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) has used Landsat in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to protect a wildlife corridor in the Maringa Lopori Wanga (MLW) region. This area is located in the northern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) immediately south of the Congo River. Within its borders are two major reserves: The Lomako-Yokokala Faunal Reserve and the Luo Scientific Reserve. Wildlife travels between these two reserves via a natural wildlife corridor. With Landsat, the AWF identified this corridor as a critical area for conservation and then began working with the DRC government and local communities to map the region. This process has had and will have significant impact on land use planning and zoning in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  • Landsat Observes Barrier Islands
    2011.05.26
    A survey of barrier islands published in 2011 in the Journal of Coastal Research offers the most thorough assessment to date of the thousands of small islands that hug the coasts of the world's landmasses. The study, led by Matthew Stutz of Meredith College and Orrin Pilkey of Duke University, raises new questions about how the unique islands form and evolve over time - and how they may fare as the climate changes and sea level rises. It was based on a global collection of satellite images as well as information from topographic and navigational charts. Landsat 7 acquired the images around 2000, but a private company mosaicked them as part of an effort funded by NASA and the United States Geological Survey.
  • Mississippi Flooding 2011
    2011.05.19
    Heavy spring rains and snowmelt led to devastating floods along the Mississippi River in May 2011. Landsat 5 flew over the Mississippi River on May 10, 2011, giving a distinct view of the extraordinary extent of the flooding. This was only eight days after the Army Corps of Engineers began blasting holes in earthen levees near Cairo, Illinois, when the river reached a depth of 61 feet.

    The extent of the 2011 flooding is compared with the same locations in April 2010.

  • Landsat: A Space Age Water Gauge
    2009.09.14
    Agriculture consumes a great deal of water. As demand for water increases, the pressure's on to make sure every drop counts.
  • Wildfire and Pine Beetles
    2010.09.07
    Mountain pine beetles are native to Western forests, but in recent years their numbers have skyrocketed. As they damage more trees and kill whole regions of forest, some worry that the dead forest left behind has become a tinderbox ready to burn. But do pine beetles really increase fire risk?Using Landsat satellite data, University of Wisconsin forest ecologist Phil Townsend and his team are discovering that pine beetle damage appears not to have a significant impact in the risk of large fires. In fact, it might even reduce fire risk in some instances.

Animations

  • Landsat 9 Spacecraft Animations and Stills
    2019.07.26
    Landsat 9 is a collaboration between NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey, and will continue the Landsat program’s critical role in monitoring, understanding and managing the land resources needed to sustain human life. The mission will provide moderate-resolution (15 meter to 100 meter, depending on spectral frequency) measurements of the Earth's terrestrial and polar regions in visible, near-infrared, short wave infrared, and thermal infrared wavelengths. There are two instruments on the spacecraft, the Thermal InfraRed Sensor 2 (TIRS-2) and the Operational Land Imager 2 (OLI-2). Landsat 9 will provide continuity with the nearly 50-year long Landsat land imaging data set. In addition to widespread routine use for land use planning and monitoring on regional to local scales, support of disaster response and evaluations, and water use monitoring, Landsat measurements directly serve NASA research in the focus areas of climate, carbon cycle, ecosystems, water cycle, biogeochemistry, and Earth surface/interior. The Landsat program is the only U.S. satellite system designed and operated to repeatedly observe the global land surface at a moderate scale that shows both natural and human-induced change.
  • Landsat Lightpath Animations
    2021.01.12
    Data collection of the OLI instrument aboard Landsat 9
  • Landsat 9 Atmospheric Correction
    2021.03.22
    Landsat collects light in visible and infrared wavelengths. Sunlight reflects off Earth’s surface, and scientists identify the land cover based on which wavelengths are reflected strongly or weakly. But sunlight is also reflected by particles in the atmosphere, which distorts the data and can lead to what looks like a haze in the imagery. Using basic principles of physics, and knowing the meteorological conditions, scientists can determine the effects of the scattering and absorption as light passes through the atmosphere. This atmospheric correction is essential to determining exactly how much of each wavelength reflected of the features of the surface, and having quantifiable data. The videos below show different examples of atmospheric scattering which need to be accounted for when doing atmospheric correction of satellite data. In these cases, it is for observations over water. The resulting atmospheric corrections are part of the process for the new Landsat Aquatic Reflectance data product. Landsat’s highly calibrated data products, free to download and use, are making detailed Earth-observation data more accessible to users and bringing a greater benefit to society.
  • Evaporation and Transpiration
    2012.03.08
    Much of the water that soaks into the soil from irrigation or rain ultimately returns the the atmosphere as water vapor through direct evaporation from the surface or by transpiration through plant leaves as the plants use the water for growth and seed production. This loss cools the surface and plant canopy just like the evaporation of sweat cools our skin. A cool field in an arid area indicates water use by irrigation.

    Using the surface temperatures measured by satellites, and some additional information, water resource managers can determine the rate at which water is used in a farm field.

  • Evapotranspiration from Landsat
    2009.09.14
    Instruments on the Landsat satellites capture images in the visible spectrum, but they also take images in wavelengths invisible to the naked eye. Landsat's thermal imager captures land surface temperature data. As farmers irrigate fields, water evaporates from the soil and transpires from plants' leaves. The combined process is called evapotranspiration. Evapotranspiring water absorbs energy, so farm fields consuming more water appear cooler in the thermal band. Landsat-based evapotranspiration measurements provide an objective way for water managers to assess on a field-by-field basis how much water agricultural growers are using. The measurements have even been used to help settle water rights conflicts in court.
  • Thermal Radiation and the Electromagnetic Spectrum
    2012.06.25
    A short animation illustrating the relationship of temperature and wavelength. Hotter objects have a shorter wavelength and cooler objects have a longer wavelength. The animation also compares the wavelengths of visible light and thermal infrared radiation.
  • Briefing Materials: Taking Landsat to the Extreme
    2013.12.09
    What is the coldest place in the world? It is a high ridge in Antarctica on the East Antarctic Plateau where temperatures in several hollows can dip below minus 133.6° Fahrenheit (minus 92° Celsius) on a clear winter night – colder than the previous recorded low temperature. Narrated animation showing the process by which the coldest place on earth develops its extreme low temperatures.
  • Landsat 8 (aka LDCM) Spacecraft Animations and Still Images
    2011.10.05
    Landsat 8 (formerly known as LDCM, the Landsat Data Continuity Mission), a collaboration between NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey, will provide moderate-resolution (15 meter - 100 meter, depending on spectral frequency) measurements of the Earth's terrestrial and polar regions in the visible, near-infrared, short wave infrared, and thermal infrared. There are two instruments on the spacecraft, the Thermal InfraRed Sensor (TIRS) and the Operational Land Imager (OLI). Landsat 8 continues the nearly 50-year long Landsat land imaging data set. In addition to widespread routine use for land use planning and monitoring on regional to local scales, support of disaster response and evaluations, and water use monitoring, Landsat 8 measurements directly serve NASA research in the focus areas of climate, carbon cycle, ecosystems, water cycle, biogeochemistry, and Earth surface/interior.
  • Landsat 7 Spacecraft Animations
    2010.01.04
    The seventh satellite in the long-running Landsat program was launched on April 15, 1999 and is the most accurately calibrated Earth-observing satellite, i.e., its measurements are extremely accurate when compared to the same measurements made on the ground. Landsat 7's sensor has been called "the most stable, best characterized Earth observation instrument ever placed in orbit." Landsat 7's rigorous calibration standards have made it the validation choice for many coarse-resolution sensors.

    Created for the 10th anniversary of the launch of Landsat 7.

Data Visualizations

  • First Global Survey of Glacial Lakes Shows 30-Years of Dramatic Growth
    2020.08.31
    The data visualization featured on this page showcases the glacier rich and wondrous landscape of High Mountain Asia and provides a glimpse into how glacial lakes have increased during the last thirty years, by demonstrating the growth of Imja Lake for the period 1989-2019. The visualization sequence starts with a wide view of Asia and the Tibetan plateau and slowly zooms into the Himalayan region, which includes many of Earth’s highest peaks and is paired with the highest concentration of snow and glaciers outside of the polar regions. Soon after a block of the Eastern Himalayan region rises featuring realistically scaled terrain data from the High Mountain Asia 8-meter Digital Elevation Model (DEM). The 8-meter DEM is draped over with Landsat 8 data from the same region. The sequence takes us on a hiking path from Mt. Everest (8,848 m / 29,029 ft), Mt. Lhotse (8,516 m / 27,940 ft) and Mt. Nuptse (7,861 m / 25,791 ft), to the Everest Base Camp, the Khumbu Glacier all the way to Imja Lake. Moving to a top-down view, a time series of geo-registered Landsat data unveils the growth of Imja Lake from 1989 to 2019. Outlines of the Imja Lake extents highlight the growth during the 30 years occurring from meltwater from the adjacent glaciers.
  • Landsat with Sentinel - Global Coverage
    2020.03.03
    Satellite data offers a broad, global view of land surface changes, but cloud cover interferes with collecting data. Landsat satellites provide observations every 16 days, and having two satellites reduces that to every 8 days. The European Space Agency Sentinel-2 satellites collect data in similar wavelengths and at a similar spatial resolution, enabling the data to be combined for even more observations. When harmonized into one data set, the result is global observations every two or three days at 30-meter resolution. Any application looking at very dynamic phenomena, where changes occur on the timescales of a few days or weeks, will benefit from the harmonized Landsat/Sentinel dataset. For example, crop condition and area, burned area, or surface water extent. Also, this will benefit any application where short-term environmental conditions (like drought) have a rapid impact on ecosystems.
  • Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) Orbits
    2012.04.16
    The Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM), also to be named Landsat 8 after its scheduled launch in February 2013, will be the eighth in the series of Landsat satellites. Since 1972, Landsat satellites have been observing and measuring Earth's continental and coastal landscapes at 15 to 30 meter resolution, where human impacts and natural changes can be monitored and characterized over time.

    This animation portrays how the LDCM satellite will orbit the Earth 13 times per day at an altitude of 705 km collecting landcover data. With a cross-track width of 185 km, the satellite will completely cover the globe in a 16 day period compiling a total of 233 orbits. A day number and the elapsed time are shown to clearly depict the passage of time which starts slowly in the beginning and increases to day-by-day steps at the end of the animation. The terrain is exaggerated by 6 times during the first day portrayed, but is increased to 12 times when the camera pulls out to a global view. An artificial orbit trail is shown following the spacecraft to indicate its position when the satellite itself is too small to be visible.

  • Florida Everglades LDCM Band Remix
    2013.02.05
    The Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) is the future of Landsat satellites. LDCM launched on February 11, 2013. Landsat satellites view the Earth through a number of different bands. Each band captures imagery in different spectral wavelengths. Scientists can combine these bands a number of ways to obtain information about the satellite imagery. This visualization shows several different band combinations over the Florida Everglades.
  • Amazon Deforestation Trends
    Gallery
    Visualizations of deforestation in the Brazilian area of the Amazonia biome. Data provided by the MapBiomas.org initiative, primarily based on Landsat data from 1985-2018.

    The Amazon has undergone major transformations over the span of the Landsat program (since 1972). Working closely with their Brazilian counterparts, and in cooperation with a number of non-governmental organizations, NASA scientists have helped map the entire country of Brazil to show different kinds of land use for every year going back to 1985.

  • A Quarter Century US Forest Disturbance History from Landsat – the NAFD-NEX Products
    2015.11.30
    The North American Forest Dynamics (NAFD) study provides annual maps of forest disturbance in the conterminous United States, from 1986-2010. Using data from the NASA/USGS Landsat satellite program, the NAFD study produces maps at a spatial resolution of 30-meters. Spanning the 25 years of the study required 26,142 Landsat images and the use of the NASA Earth Exchange (NEX) supercomputing facility. Each annual map has classified pixels showing water, no forest cover, forest cover, no data available (data gaps) in present year, and forest disturbances that occurred in that year. Forest disturbance, in this study, refers to any removal or loss of the forest canopy. There were disturbances from natural causes, such as fires, insect outbreaks, hurricanes, tornadoes, and snow storms. There were also human-caused disturbances such as timber harvesting, urban development, and mining. Major timber harvest areas included the Southeast, the Pacific Northwest, and Maine. Extensive mountaintop mining was found in the Southern Appalachians, extending from Western Virginia to Tennessee. The eastern coast suffered substantial damages from hurricanes, while large scale damages from fire and insect outbreak were mostly in the western U.S. This study is a core project of the North American Carbon Program (NACP), a multidisciplinary research program designed to obtain scientific understanding of North America’s carbon sources and sinks and quantify changes in carbon stocks. This information is being used to evaluate the role of forest disturbance in the North American carbon cycle, which will help meet societal concerns and provide tools for decision makers. The NAFD (North American Forest Dynamics) study, a core project of the North American Carbon Program (NACP), was supported by grants from NASA’s Terrestrial Ecology, Carbon Cycle Sciences, and Applied Sciences Programs. The UMD group was supported under NASA Grant NNX11AJ78G S01. Associated NAFD-NEX activities have been carried out by Warren Cohen, USFS Pacific Northwest Research Station (Product Validation), Jeffrey Masek, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (Regrowth Dynamics), Gretchen Moisen, USFS Rocky Mountain Research Station (Causal Factors Attribution) and Ramakrishna Nemani, NASA Ames Research Center (NEX computing). Data Citation: Goward, S.N., C. Huang, F. Zhao, K. Schleeweis, K. Rishmawi, M. Lindsey, J.L. Dungan, and A. Michaelis. 2015. NACP NAFD Project: Forest Disturbance History from Landsat, 1986-2010. ORNL DAAC, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, USA. http://dx.doi.org/10.3334/ORNLDAAC/1290
  • Nebraska Water Usage
    2015.10.14
    Water managers in 15 states across the U.S. currently use Metric technology to track agricultural water use. Metric measures evapotranspiration (ET)—the amount of water evaporating from the soil and transpiring from a plant’s leaves. The thermal band data on Landsat satellites allows water specialists to measure ET. This process cools the plant down so irrigated farm fields appear cooler (bluer) in Landsat satellite images. The latest evolution of METRIC technology—an application called EEFLUX, will allow anyone in the world to produce field-scale maps of water consumption, including on mobile devices. Metric was developed in the early 2000s and to date EEFLUX has been introduced to the California Department of Water Resources, the California Water Control Board, and the World Bank.
  • Landsat 8 Crosses the Arctic
    2015.02.16
    On June 21, 2014—the summer solstice—when the Sun stays above the horizon of the Arctic for at least 24 hours, Landsat 8 acquired this unbroken swath of images. While much of the region is still frozen in June, the ice is in various stages of melting. The Landsat 8 swath begins in Sweden and Finland, then crosses the Greenland Sea and northern Greenland. The scenes then take us over North America, through Canada’s Nunavut and Northwest Territories, before ending up offshore of British Columbia. In its entirety, the flyover is composed of 52 individual Landsat scenes and covers an area about 6,800 kilometers long and 200 kilometers wide (4,200 by 120 miles). “These Landsat swaths provide stunning views of transitions across the most remote and infrequently visited areas of our planet,” said Jim Irons, NASA’s project scientist for Landsat 8. The full swaths offer a unique perspective by showing Earth as the satellite “sees” it on its orbital path. And like the view from a cross-country flight on an airplane, there are often clouds blocking the view of the ground. “When you add the multi-temporal and historic nature of the Landsat data archive into consideration,” Irons said, “the views become vital in observing seasonal and interannual changes to a region that is most sensitive to climate change.” For more information: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/ArcticLongSwath/.
  • Landsat-8 Long Arctic Swath
    2015.02.16
    On June 21, 2014 - the summer solstice - when the Suns stays above the horizon of the Arctic for at least 24 hours, Landsat 8 acquired this unbroken swath of images. While much of the region is still frozen in June, the ice is in various stages of melting. The Landsat 8 swath begins in Sweden and Finland, then crosses the Greenland Sea and Northern Greenland. The scenes then take us over North America, through Canada's Nunavut and Northwest Territories, before ending up offshore of British Columbia. In its entirety, the flyover is composed of 52 individual Landsat scenes and covers an area about 6,800 kilometers wide (4200 by 120 miles). "These Landsat swaths provide stunning views of transitions across the most infrequently visited areas of our planet," said Jim Irons, NASA's project scientist for Landsat 8. The full swaths offer a unique perspective by showing Earth as the satellite "sees" it on its orbital path. And like the view from a cross-country flight on an airplane, there are often clouds blocking the view of the ground. "When you add the multi-temporal and historic nature of the Landsat data archive into consideration," Irons said, "the views become vital in observing seasonal and interannual changes to a region that is most sensitive to climate change."
  • LDCM Long Swath
    2013.05.15
    After two months of on-orbit testing and calibration, LDCM fired its propulsion system on April 12, 2013, and ascended to its final orbit 438 miles (705 km) above Earth. The animation, made from scenes taken a week later on April 19, allows viewers to fly with the satellite from its final operating orbit. 56 continuous Landsat scenes from that orbit have been stitched together into a seamless view from Russia to South Africa. Orbiting at 16,800 mph (27,000 kph), LDCM made this flight in just more than 20 minutes. The animation moves faster, covering 5,665 miles (9,117 kilometers) in nearly 16 minutes. You would have to be moving about 21,930 mph (35,290 kph) to get a similar view — only slightly slower than the Apollo astronauts who entered Earth's orbit from the moon at 25,000 mph (40,200 kph).

    We pan down the long swath of data from LDCM (aka Landsat 8) starting in northern Russia, passing over the Caucasus Mountains, the Republic of Georgia, Armenia, Turkey (passing Lake Van), Iraq, and Saudi Arabia (the cities of Medina and Jeddah), crossing the Red Sea into Eritrea, Ethiopia, the Kenya-Uganda border and catching the eastern edge of Lake Victoria, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, a little bit of Mozambique, and ending in northern South Africa.

  • Landsat-8 Long Swath
    2013.05.15
    Landsat-8 launched February 11th, 2013. This visualization shows one of the first full swaths of data taken on April 19th, 2013, only one week after Landsat-8 ascended to its final altitude of 438 miles (705 km).
  • Life Histories from Landsat: 25 Years in the Pacific Northwest Forest
    2012.12.07
    This visualization shows a sequence of Landsat-based data in the Pacific Northwest. There is one data set for each year representing an aggregate of the approximate peak of the growing season (around August). The data was created using a sophisticated algorithm called LandTrendr. LandTrendr analyzes 'stacks' of Landsat scenes, looking for statistical trends in the data and filtering out noise. The algorithm evaluated data from more than 1,800 Landsat Thematic Mapper images, nearly 1 Terabyte of raw imagery, to define the life histories of each of more than 336 million pixels on the landscape. The resulting trends identify periods of stability and change that are displayed as colors.

    In these false color images, the colors represent types of land; for example, blue areas are forests; orange/yellow areas are agriculture; and, purple areas are urban. Each 'stack' is representative of a Landsat scene. There are 22 stacks stitched together to cover most of the U.S. Pacific Northwest. This processed data is used for science, natural resource management, and education.

    The visualization zooms into the Portland area showing different types of land such as agricultural, urban, and forests. We move south to a region that was evergreen forest for a number of years (blue), then was clear cut in 1999 (orange), then began to regrow (yellow). A graph shows the trajectories for a particular location in the clearcut as the years repeat. The dots represent the original data from Landsat; and, the line represents LandTrendr analysis. We move over to the Three Sisters region to show an area of pine forest that becomes infested with bark beetles in 2004. Next, we move to the southern foothills of Mount Hood where a budworm infestation is in progress; around 1991, the worms move on to another area and shrubs start to regrow. Next we

    move to the east side of Mount Rainier National Park to see another budworm outbreak followed by shrub regrowth. Finally, we move to the west of Mount Rainier where we can see widespread clear cutting outside of the park, but no clear cutting inside the protected park land.


    Don't miss this related tour of the region.


  • Life Histories from Landsat: 25 Years in the Pacific Northwest Forest — North/South Tour
    2012.12.07
    This visualization shows a sequence of Landsat-based data in the Pacific Northwest. There is one data set for each year representing an aggregate of the approximate peak of the growing season (around August). The data was created using a sophisticated algorithm called LandTrendr. LandTrendr analyzes 'stacks' of Landsat scenes, looking for statistical trends in the data and filtering out noise. The algorithm evaluated data from more than 1,800 Landsat Thematic Mapper images, nearly 1 Terabyte of raw imagery, to define the life histories of each of more than 336 million pixels on the landscape. The resulting trends identify periods of stability and change that are displayed as colors.

    In these false color images, the colors represent types of land; for example, blue areas are forests; orange/yellow areas are agriculture; and, purple areas are urban. Each 'stack' is representative of a Landsat scene. There are 22 stacks stitched together to cover most of the U.S. Pacific Northwest. This processed data is used for science, natural resource management, and education.

    We move in to the southwest corner of the data set near Redwood National Park and proceed on a slow tour through a portion of the data set. Time loops from 1984 through 2011 as we move. We move over to Mount Shasta, then up the Cascade Range, passing Crater Lake National Park, the Three Sisters, Mount Jefferson, Mount Hood, Mount Saint Helens, Mount Adams, Mount Rainier, Mount Baker, and the North Cascades National Park. Next we move west over Seattle and pass over Olympic National Park, then we head back south down the Willamette Valley back to Redwood National Park.


    Don't miss this related narrated visualization


  • Forest Cover Loss 2000-2012 in Colorado, Oklahoma, and Saskatechewan
    2014.09.10
    Twelve years of global deforestation, wildfires, windstorms, insect infestations, and more are captured in a new set of forest disturbance maps created from billions of pixels acquired by the imager on the NASA-USGS Landsat 7 satellite. The maps are the first to measure forest loss and gain using a consistent method around the globe at high spatial resolution, allowing scientists to compare forest changes in different countries and to monitor annual deforestation. Since each pixel in a Landsat image represents a piece of land about the size of a baseball diamond, researchers can see enough detail to tell local, regional and global stories.

    Hansen and colleagues analyzed 143 billion pixels in 654,000 Landsat images to compile maps of forest loss and gain between 2000 and 2012. During that period, 888,000 square miles (2.3 million square kilometers) of forest was lost, and 308,900 square miles (0.8 million square kilometers) regrew. The researchers, including scientists from the University of Maryland, Google, the State University of New York, Woods Hole Research Center, the U.S. Geological Survey and South Dakota State University, published their work in the Nov. 15, 2013, issue of the journal Science.

    Key to the project was collaboration with team members from Google Earth Engine, who reproduced in the Google Cloud the models developed at the University of Maryland for processing and characterizing the Landsat data; Google Earth Engine contains a complete copy of the Landsat record. The computing required to generate these maps would have taken 15 years on a single desktop computer, but with cloud computing was performed in a few days.

    Since 1972, the Landsat program has played a critical role in monitoring, understanding and managing the resources needed to sustain human life such as food, water and forests. Landsat 8 launched Feb. 11, 2013, and is jointly managed by NASA and USGS to continue the 40-plus years of Earth observations.

    To view the forest cover maps in Google Earth Engine, visit: http://earthenginepartners.appspot.com/google.com/science-2013-global-forest
  • Vegetation Greening Trend in Canada and Alaska: 1984-2012
    2016.06.02
    High-latitude regions have been warming rapidly since the last century, at a rate higher than the global average. At continental scales, satellite data since the 1980s have indicated increased vegetation productivity (greening) across northern high latitudes, and a productivity decline (browning) for certain areas of undisturbed boreal forest of Canada and Alaska. These remote sensing results have been corroborated by in-situ evidence. This research provides a spatially complete view of the vegetation greenness change for all of Canada and Alaska by calculating per-pixel NDVI trend from all available 1984–2012 peak-summer Landsat-5 and -7 surface reflectance data. By incorporating observations from overlapping scenes, researchers obtained up to 160 valid NDVI values for certain areas from this 29-year period, establishing the mid-Summer greenness trend. This animation shows the resulting greenness trend over Canada and Alaska with special attention focused on the regions of Quebec and northern Alaska.
  • Seasonal Speed Variation on Heimdal Glacier
    2016.12.12
    The NASA/USGS Landsat 8 mission has allowed new views of the Earth’s glaciers. By tracking displacement of local surface features through the seasons on outlet glaciers from the large ice sheets, researchers from the University of Alaska, the University of Bristol, and the University of Colorado have been able to show that each glacier around Greenland has a unique pattern of flow variation through the seasons. Seasonal variations, seen in this animation on the lower 25 kilometers of Heimdal Glacier in southeast Greenland, are caused by a combination of processes. For Heimdal, the largest forcing for flow variation is likely the input of increasing amounts of surface melt water through the Spring and Summer, but there is also an interplay between calving of ice from the end of the glacier, flow acceleration as shown in the animation, and thinning of the ice due to the extra stretching from the faster flow. By measuring these changes in flow on seasonal timescales, scientists can develop a better understanding of what controls the flow of these glaciers where they meet the ocean. This understanding will improve our ability to anticipate flow responses of these systems in a warming climate.
  • Coldest Place on Earth
    2013.12.04
    What is the coldest place in the world? It is a high ridge in Antarctica on the East Antarctic Plateau where temperatures in several hollows can dip below minus 133.6° Fahrenheit (minus 92° Celsius) on a clear winter night - colder than the previous recorded low temperature.

    Scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center made the discovery while analyzing the most detailed global surface temperature maps to date, developed with data from remote sensing satellites including the MODIS sensor on NASA's Aqua satellite, and the TIRS sensor on Landsat 8, a joint project of NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

    The researchers analyzed 32 years of data from several satellite instruments that have mapped Antarctica's surface temperature. Near a high ridge that runs from Dome Arugs to Dome Fuji, the scientists found clusters of pockets that have plummeted to record low temperatures dozens of times. The lowest temperature the satellites detected - minus 136° F (minus 93.2° C), on Aug. 10, 2010.

    The new record is several degrees colder than the previous low of minus 128.6° F (minus 89.2° C), set in 1983 at the Russian Vostok Research Station in East Antarctica. The coldest permanently inhabited place on Earth is northeastern Siberia, where temperatures dropped to a bone-chilling 90 degrees below zero F (minus 67.8° C) in the towns of Verkhoyansk (in 1892) and Oimekon (in 1933).

    Related feature story: http://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/nasa-usgs-landsat-8-satellite-pinpoints-coldest-spots-on-earth

  • Drought 2010-2012
    2012.12.05
    The Evaporative Stress Index (ESI) provides objective, high-resolution information about the evaporation of water from land surface. The ESI model combines satellite data with other meteorological factors to determine how much water is used by crops and vegetation. The resulting data helps to detect drought. This visualization shows ESI data for 2010, 2011, and 2012. 2010 was a relatively wet year despite occasional drought. In 2011, the ESI shows extremely dry conditions across all of Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma, tracking one of the country's most devastating droughts. In 2012, the ESI shows plant stress in the Corn Belt region as early as May. These warning signs later developed into a full drought that impacted the world's corn and soy been supply. The kind of early-warning detection system ESI provides will enhance the US arsenal of drought monitoring tools and help farmers adapt to drought before it evolves.
  • Urban Sprawl in Beijing, China (Hyperwall version)
    2013.01.14
    Beijing is one of the oldest, and now, one of the most crowded cities in the world. Established as a city in 1045 BC, King Wu was the first to declare it as a capital in 1057 BC. Having served as the capital of the Liao, Jin, Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties, Beijing is now the capital of the People's Republic of China. In these Landsat images, the explosive growth of this ancient city is clearly visible. In 1972, only about 7.89 million people lived there — but by 2010 the population swelled to more than 12 million. This increase in the city's size corresponds to the opening of China to the Western world in the 1970s. Up until 1979, the government restricted housing in the city, limiting it to the confines of the "Outer City." Previously a walled fortress, its outline is still visible today due to the build up of canals and roads along the path of the original wall. Inside this rectangular boundary is the ancient heart of the capital, the moat-lined Forbidden City. Called forbidden because anyone entering needed royal permission, this is where the Imperial Palace still stands, once home to 500 years of Chinese emperors. It was Kublai Khan who established the Forbidden City in 1260 A.D. He called it Khanbaliq but Italian explorer Marco Polo called it Cambuluc. It still stands as Beijing's city center. In 1421 the Chinese took the city back and gave it its current name of Beijing. Today, Beijing is only limited by the rugged Taihang Mountains that run to the west and northwest of the city, pushing the population to spread to the south and east across the relatively flat coastal plain.
  • Urban Sprawl in Beijing, China
    2012.07.23
    Beijing is one of the oldest, and now, one of the most crowded cities in the world. Established as a city in 1045 BC, King Wu was the first to declare it as a capital in 1057 BC. Having served as the capital of the Liao, Jin, Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties, Beijing is now the capital of the People's Republic of China. In these Landsat images, the explosive growth of this ancient city is clearly visible. In 1972, only about 7.89 million people lived there — but by 2010 the population swelled to more than 12 million. This increase in the city's size corresponds to the opening of China to the Western world in the 1970s. Up until 1979, the government restricted housing in the city, limiting it to the confines of the "Outer City." Previously a walled fortress, its outline is still visible today due to the build up of canals and roads along the path of the original wall. Inside this rectangular boundary is the ancient heart of the capital, the moat-lined Forbidden City. Called forbidden because anyone entering needed royal permission, this is where the Imperial Palace still stands, once home to 500 years of Chinese emperors. It was Kublai Khan who established the Forbidden City in 1260 A.D. He called it Khanbaliq but Italian explorer Marco Polo called it Cambuluc. It still stands as Beijing's city center. In 1421 the Chinese took the city back and gave it its current name of Beijing. Today, Beijing is only limited by the rugged Taihang Mountains that run to the west and northwest of the city, pushing the population to spread to the south and east across the relatively flat coastal plain.
  • Mountain Top Removal and Deforestation Throughout the Eastern Seaboard from 2006-2010
    2012.07.23
    Humans actively change the Earth's landscape. Some of these changes can be seen from space through careful analysis of satellite data. In this visualization, we fly over the United States eastern seaboard highlighting large areas of deforestation and mountain top removal (in shades of orange and red) throughout the region. NASA scientists have worked on complex algorithms that allow us to see these changes through time more easily. The data depicted here covers the years 2006-2010. Areas in orange and red are the regions have have sustained the greatest change in this 4 year period. Oranges areas represent older change (closer to 2006) and darker reds are more current (2010). Only areas with greater than 25% tree cover are shown in shades of green. A muted gray-brown color is used for areas with less than 25% tree cover.
  • Mountain Top Removal and Vegetation change over the Ouachita Mountains from 2006-2010
    2012.07.23
    Humans actively change the Earth's landscape. Some of these changes can be seen from space through careful analysis of satellite data. In this visualization, we fly over the Ouachita Mountains highlighting (in shades of orange and red) large areas of vegetation change and mountain top removal throughout the region. NASA scientists have worked on complex algorithms that allow us to see these changes through time more easily. The data depicted here covers the years 2006-2010. Areas in orange and red are the regions have have sustained the greatest change in this 4 year period. Oranges areas represent older change (closer to 2006) and darker reds are more current (2010). Only areas with greater than 25% tree cover are shown in shades of green. A muted gray-brown color is used for areas with less than 25% tree cover.
  • Deforestation in Rondonia, Brazil
    2012.07.23
    In this animation of images from 1975 until 2012, acquired by the Landsat 5 and 7 satellites, enormous tracts of Amazonian forest disappear in Rondonia, a state in Western Brazil.

    Deforestation in Rondonia in the 1970s until the 1990s had a distinctive "fishbone" pattern. Access to this remote region began with a major road cutting through the dense tropical forest, opening up new territory for small farms and ranches. Then, other roads developed at right angles to the initial road. In this visualization, these roads shoot off a stretch of the main "backbone" road for about 31 miles (~50 kilometers) long, each secondary road branching off about every 2.5 (~4 kilometers). This creates the "fishbone" pattern.

    Even with the deforestation, Brazil is still home to more than a quarter of Earth's tropical forests. In addition to their astounding biodiversity, these forests act as a major carbon "sink." These are places where carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is absorbed by living things, like trees and plants, and thus the carbon is said to be trapped or sequestered. With increasing carbon dioxide levels around the world, the ability of these forests to hold onto carbon has beneficial implications for stabilizing the world's climate.

    NASA and the U.S. Department of the Interior through the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) jointly manage Landsat, and the USGS preserves a 40-year archive of Landsat images that is freely available over the Internet. The next Landsat satellite, now known as the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) and later to be called Landsat 8, is scheduled for launch in 2013.

  • Rise of the Three Gorges Dam
    2007.06.11
    Some call it the eighth wonder of world; others say it's the next Great Wall of China. Upon completion in 2009, the Three Gorges Dam will be the world's largest hydroelectric power generator. One of the few man-made structures so enormous that it's actually visible to the naked eye from space, NASA's Landsat satellite has had a closer look, providing detailed, vivid views of the dam since its inception in 1994. The dam is built along the Yangtze River, the third largest in the world, stretching more than 3,900 miles across China before reaching its mouth near Shanghai. Historically, the river has been prone to massive flooding, overflowing its banks about once every ten years. During the 20th century alone, Chinese authorities estimate that some 300,000 people were killed from Yangtze River floods. The dam is designed to greatly improve flood control on the river and protect the 15 million people and 3.7 million acres of farmland in the lower Yangtze flood plains. Observations from the NASA-built Landsat satellites provide an overview of the dam's construction. The earliest data set, from 1987, shows the region prior to start of construction. By 2000, construction along each riverbank was underway, but sediment-filled water still flowed through a narrow channel near the river's south bank. The 2004 data shows development of the main wall and the partial filling of the reservoir, including numerous side canyons. By mid-2006, construction of the main wall was completed and a reservoir more than 2 miles (3 kilometers) across had filled just upstream of the dam. To read more about the Three Gorges Dam, please click here. This animation was designed in three parts: Part 1: The first part of this animation zooms in to the Three Gorges Dam and travels backward and forward through time emphasizing the dam construction and filling of the reservoir. This animation then continues seemlessly into Part 2. Part 2: Starting where Part 1 leaves off, the camera flies up the 2006 data showing the high water levels that have already filled the multiple gorges upstream. Part 3: Identical to Part 2, except showing the 1987 data prior to the dam construction.
  • Orthographic View of Jakobshavn Calving Front: 1851 to 2010
    2010.12.09
    The Jakobshavn Isbrae glacier, also known as Sermeq Kujalleq, is located on the west coast of Greenland at Latitude 69 degrees N. The ice front, where the glacier calves into the sea, receded more than 40 km between 1850 and 2010. Between 1850 and 1964 the ice front retreated at a steady rate of about 0.3 km/yr, after which it occupied approximately the same location until 2001, receding 10km in three years. After 2005 the single icefront had retreated enough to split into distinct fronts for the smaller, northern tributary and the main southern trunk. The icestream flows in a deep trough which ends near the current glacier terminus. The bedrock topography is expected to stabilize the location of the icefront for the near future as the glacier continues to drawn ice from Greenland's interior. The movement of ice from glaciers on land into the ocean contributes to a rise in sea level. Jakobshavn Isbrae is Greenland's largest outlet glacier, draining 6.5 percent of Greenland's ice sheet area.

    This image is generated with an orthographic camera set to view the range from 51.372 W longitude to 49.212 W and from 68.94 N latitude to 69.39 N. The Landsat image shown in the background is a false color image of data collected on July 29, 2009.

  • Landsat Image Mosaic of Antarctica
    2009.04.07
    The first ever, high-resolution, true color map of Antarctica.

Still Graphics

  • Landsat Program Timeline
    2013.12.16
    The Landsat program offers the longest continuous global record of the Earth’s surface; it continues to deliver visually stunning and scientifically valuable images of our planet. This short video highlights Landsat’s many benefits to society.

    In 1975, NASA Administrator Dr. James Fletcher predicted that if one space age development would save the world, it would be Landsat and its successor satellites. Since the early 1970s, Landsat has continuously and consistently archived images of Earth; this unparalleled data archive gives scientist the ability to assess changes in Earth’s landscape.

    For over 40 years, the Landsat program has collected spectral information from Earth’s surface, creating a historical archive unmatched in quality, detail, coverage, and length.

    “It was the granddaddy of them all, as far as starting the trend of repetitive, calibrated observations of the Earth at a spatial resolution where one can detect man’s interaction with the environment,” Dr. Darrel Williams, the Landsat 7 Project Scientist, states about Landsat.

    Landsat sensors have a moderate spatial-resolution. You cannot see individual houses on a Landsat image, but you can see large man-made objects such as highways. This is an important spatial resolution because it is coarse enough for global coverage, yet detailed enough to characterize human-scale processes such as urban growth, deforestation, agriculture water use, and more.

  • Visible Earth
    External Resource
    Find all Landsat images published by the award-winning NASA Earth Observatory here. Beautifully annotated (and unannotated) images collected throughout Landsat’s long history are featured along with detailed descriptions and scientific explanations. All of the images are in the public domain and may be used with attribution.
  • NASA Image & Video Library
    External Resource
    All content tagged for Landsat 9 in the NASA Image and Video Library, which allows users to search, discover and download a treasure trove of more than 140,000 NASA images, videos and audio files from across the agency’s many missions in aeronautics, astrophysics, Earth science, human spaceflight, and more.
  • Earth As Art
    External Resource
    Satellites capture an incredible variety of views of Earth. In addition to their scientific value, many satellite images are simply lovely to look at. In these collections from the U.S. Geological Survey, see the mesmerizing beauty of river deltas, mountains, and other sandy, salty, and icy landscapes. Some might even remind you of actual famous works of art!
  • World of Change
    External Resource
    See for yourself how our planet is changing at the World of Change gallery featured on NASA’s Earth Observatory. Via time series satellite images, you can witness the unfolding transformation of Earth’s surface. Many different satellite data sets are featured on this site. As you’ve probably guessed, you can find Landsat—with its nearly five-decade archive—in heavy rotation here.
  • Landsat Downloads and Use Data
    2014.01.22
    Graph showing the total number of Landsat scenes downloaded since October 1, 2008, when the USGS instituted their policy to distribute Landsat data for free. In the five years since, over 11 million scenes have been downloaded from the Landsat archive.
  • Landsat and Agriculture
    2013.07.22
    The Landsat program has been running since 1972, having successfully launched 7 satellites into orbit. (Landsat 6, owned by a private company, failed at launch and never reached orbit.) Since 1972, Landsat satellites have been regularly collecting data about the Earth's land surface to help monitor our natural resources and study how land cover and land use are changing.
  • Global Rate of Deforestation 2011
    2011.11.15
    Earth's forests are of incalculable value; they are a vital component of the climate system - controlling gas, energy and water exchange between the surface and atmosphere; the tropical forests alone contain half of all biological species - diversity that underpins human and environmental wellbeing; they are a major source of revenue - timber, non-timber forest products and mineral reserves and they are the primary source of energy for over 2 billion people.

    Forests have never been under more pressure. Demand for their natural wealth and a hunger for land causes forest clearance at alarming rates. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that the Earth loses an area about the size of a football field every 3 seconds - in the time it takes to make a sandwich an area equivalent to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., is cleared... somewhere on Earth trees are falling every second of every day.

    Based on a systematic sample of Landsat imagery at 4,016 locations around the tropical belt the European Commission's TREES 3 project is making estimates of forest cover change for the years 1990, 2000, 2005 and 2010 with new levels of precision. Preliminary results emphasize just how relentless the pressure on our planet is. Using archived and recent Landsat imagery we have measured dramatic changes to the African Continent for example. Since the 1970s natural vegetation (forests and savannas) have been converted to agricultural land at a tremendous pace. Around 50,000 sq. km per year are cleared - an area twice the size of Vermont. With the fastest growing population in the world such land cover conversions are unlikely to slow down any time soon, nor should the measuring programs. Landsat 8 and its European counterpart, Sentinel 2, are not being launched any sooner than they are needed.

  • NASA Sees New Salt in an Ancient Sea
    External Resource
    The expansion of massive salt evaporation projects on the Dead Sea are clearly visible in this time series of images taken by Landsat satellites operated by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey. This false-color image was captured by the Landsat 1, 4 & 7 satellites.

Change Over Time

  • Tracking Amazon Deforestation
    2021.04.19
    The Amazon is the largest tropical rainforest in the world, nearly as big as the continental United States. But every year, less of that forest is still standing. Today's deforestation across the Amazon frontier is tractors and bulldozers clearing large swaths to make room for industrial-scale cattle ranching and crops. So far, the amount of area that's been deforested in the Brazilian Amazon alone is equivalent to the size of the state of California. Scientists like Tasso Azevedo of MapBiomas and Doug Morton of NASA use satellite data to map land cover in Brazil with a historical perspective. Using the Landsat archive, they can precisely identify where the massive forest has been cleared and if it was permitted. The aim of MapBiomas is to enable better decisions for managing their natural resources.
  • 40 Years of Forest Recovery
    2020.05.18
    It has been forty years since Mount St. Helens erupted on May 18, 1980, in southwestern Washington, near the Oregon border. Fifty-seven people lost their lives in the disaster, and huge swaths of the surrounding forest were levelled. Both before and after the eruption, Landsat satellites were taking regular observations of the area, and their data is being used to study how forests recover from a very large disturbance. Sean Healey is a research ecologist with the Rocky Mountain Research Service, United State Forest Service. Along with his colleague Zhiqiang Yang, Sean has been studying the forests in the area to determine how the structure of the forest changes with disturbances. He is interesteed in knowing the changes in carbon stocks and the dynamics of forest recovery. Sean and Zhiqiang have used Landsat data to create predictions of the percent tree cover as the trees and other vegetation regrows. The Landsat Program is a series of Earth-observing satellite missions jointly managed by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Landsat satellites have been consistently gathering data about our planet since 1972. They continue to improve and expand this unparalleled record of Earth's changing landscapes for the benefit of all.
  • 48 Years of Alaska Glaciers
    2019.12.09
    New time-lapse videos of Earth's glaciers and ice sheets as seen from space – spanning nearly 50 years – are providing scientists with new insights into how the planet's frozen regions are changing. Using images from the Landsat mission dating back to 1972 and continuing through 2019, glaciologist Mark Fahnestock of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, has stitched together six-second time-lapses of every glacier in Alaska and the Yukon. The videos clearly illustrate what's happening to Alaska's glaciers in a warming climate. Some show surges that pause for a few years, or lakes forming where ice used to be, or even the debris from landslides making its way to the sea. Other glaciers show patterns that give scientists hints of what drives glacier changes.
  • Landsat Croplands Data Overview
    2019.11.27
    Since 2009, the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service, or NASS, has drawn on Landsat data to monitor dozens of crops in the lower 48 states as part of NASS's Cropland Data Layer program. The Cropland Data layer uses Landsat and similar sensors to identify what crop is growing where in the country. Separately, NASS uses NASA's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instruments aboard the Aqua and Terra satellites to monitor daily vegetation health and growth stage, all indicators of crop yield. “Landsat has been one of the only ways we can directly measure the global food supply,” said Brad Doorn, program manager for NASA's Applied Sciences Water Resources and Agriculture Research at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. However, “It's not all satellites,” Mueller said. During a typical farming year, NASS relies heavily on their ground observations and surveys data. Across the country, NASS field officials visit farms, and measure acreage and condition of planted fields throughout the growing season. NASS also receives crop acreage data from the Farm Service Agency (FSA). Farmers are required to self-report crop acreage and land use information to FSA annually. FSA uses the data to determine payment for federal programs such as crop loss due to natural disaster or financial loss from changes in market prices. NASS will publish the final Cropland Data layer in January of the following year and makes the data available to everyone through the CropScape website. Disaster managers use the sites historic data to evaluate crop damage from this year's floods and other natural disasters. Resource managers use historic data to direct crop rotation, study land-use change, and monitor water use.
  • 25 Years of Forest Dynamics
    2018.04.27
    Forests are living, ever changing ecosystems, affected by aging, natural disasters and human interventions. Annual maps of the lower-48 United States produced from satellite data illustrate how these dynamic systems changed from 1986-2010. Logging and hurricanes play a significant role in the Southeast, and fires and insect invasion damage forest canopy in the West. Trees are one of the world's best absorbers of atmospheric carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. Understanding how trees and forests change through time is one of the first steps to understanding how active they are in pulling carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, which is of profound interest to scientists monitoring climate change. Developed for the North American Forest Dynamics study, scientists combined 25 years of satellite data from the joint U.S. Geological Survey/NASA Landsat satellite program with information from the U.S. Forest Service to highlight where forest canopy was disturbed. To learn more about the project and get data, visit: https://daac.ornl.gov/NACP/guides/NAFD-NEX_Forest_Disturbance.html
  • Harmonized Landsat 8 and Sentinel-2 Data
    2018.03.19
    Landsat 8 and Sentinel-2 satellites have spectral and spatial similarities that make using their data together possible. When the data are used together observations can be more timely and accurate. The HLS project is an effort to "harmonize" the data of the two satellite programs so that they can be more easily used in unison. The ultimate goal is to obtain seamless 2-3 day global surface reflectance coverage at 30 meters that removes residual differences between the sensors due to spectral bandpass and view geometry. Currently the v1.3 HLS data set encompasses 82 global test sites that cover about 7% of the global land area. Using the processing power of the NASA Earth Exchange (NEX) computer cluster at NASA Ames, the HLS workflow atmospherically corrects data from the satellites, geographically tiles the Landsat data in a manor matching the Sentinel-2 tiling, and then corrects for different sensor view angles (Bidirectional Reflectance Distribution Function, or BRDF) and does a slight band pass adjustment for the Sentinel-2 data to create the harmonized 30-meter product. The HLS team includes researchers from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, the University of Maryland, and NASA Ames Research Center.
  • Land Changes in Atchafalaya Bay
    2017.07.21
    Since 1972, Landsat satellites have orbited our home planet, collecting data about the land surface we rely on. Changes in coastal wetlands, such as the growth of deltas in Atchafalaya Bay, are one example. After a severe flood in 1973, enough sediment came down the Atchafalaya River to build sandbars into islands. In subsequent years, the delta has continued to grow, along with a companion at the Wax Lake Outlet to the West. Scientists at Louisiana State University estimate that the two deltas, together, have grown about one square mile each year. It hasn't been continuous growth the whole time. Between 1989 and 1995 the two deltas added a combined 13 square miles of land, but due to a series of hurricanes between 1999 and 2004, they then lost a combined 0.8 square miles, according to the LSU team. During the later years, there were no major floods to replenish the sediments in the delta. This video shows footage of the launch of the first Landsat satellite, on July 23, 1972, and yearly images of Atchafalaya Bay, Louisiana, using wavelengths in the green, near-infrared, and short wave-infrared regions of the spectrum. The Landsat program is a joint NASA/USGS program that provides the longest continuous space-based record of Earth's land in existence. Every day, Landsat satellites provide essential information to help policy makers and land managers make wise decisions about our resources and our environment. They continue to deliver visually stunning and scientifically valuable images of our planet. http://landsat.gsfc.nasa.gov http://landsat.usgs.gov
  • Landsat Tracks Mount St. Helens Recovery
    2017.05.18
    The May 18, 1980, eruption of Mount St. Helens came after two months of small earthquakes. During the eruption, an avalanche of debris and mud spread for miles from the former summit, and a blast of steam and hot ash covered an area of about 600 square kilometers (230 square miles). In the decades since, scientists have studied the recovery of the ecosystem around the mountain using the Landsat series of satellites. By observing different wavelengths of light reflected of the surface, Landsat data can identify different types of landcover. This visualization uses red, near-infrared, and green to distinguish healthy vegetation (green) from bare ground (magenta). NASA and the U.S. Department of the Interior through the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) jointly manage Landsat, and the USGS preserves a 40-plus-year archive of Landsat images that is freely available over the Internet. Since the launch of Landsat 1 in 1972, Landsat satellites have become an integral part of many operational land management activities. Landsat satellites provide decision makers with key information about the world’s food, forests, water and how these and other land resources are being used. The USGS has detailed information on the geology of Mount St. Helens.
  • Devastation and Recovery of Mt. St. Helens
    2017.09.01
    In the nearly four decades since the eruption (1980), Mt. St. Helens has given scientists an unprecedented opportunity to witness the steps through which life reclaims a devastated landscape. The scale of the eruption and the beginning of reclamation in the Mt. St. Helens blast zone are documented in this series of images between 1979 and 2017. The older images are false-color (vegetation is red). Not surprisingly, the first noticeable recovery (late 1980s) takes place in the northwestern quadrant of the blast zone, farthest from the volcano. It is another decade (late 1990s) before the terrain east of Spirit Lake is considerably greener. By the end of the series, the only area (beyond the slopes of the mountain itself) that remains conspicuously bare at the scale of these images is the Pumice Plain.
  • Landsat's Global View of Ice Velocity
    2016.12.12
    Ice from glaciers constantly flows into the ocean, but the speed the ice moves at changes. Landsat 8 provides near-real-time mapping of ice speed in nearly all the world’s frozen regions. Information like ice speed helps scientists study our home planet and its vulnerability to rising seas.
  • Crack in Larsen C Ice Shelf
    2017.07.12
    An iceberg about the size of the state of Delaware split off from Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf sometime between July 10 and July 12. The calving of the massive new iceberg was captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite. Larsen C, a floating platform of glacial ice on the east side of the Antarctic Peninsula, is the fourth largest ice shelf ringing Earth’s southernmost continent. In 2014, a crack that had been slowly growing into the ice shelf for decades suddenly started to spread northwards, creating the nascent iceberg. The growth of the crack has been tracked by Landsat satellites, which are jointly managed by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey. Now that the close to 2240 square-mile (5800 square kilometers) chunk of ice has broken away, the Larsen C shelf area has shrunk by approximately 10 percent.
  • Details of Arctic Greening in North America
    2016.06.02
    The northern reaches of North America are getting greener, according to a NASA study that provides the most detailed look yet at plant life across Alaska and Canada. In a changing climate, almost a third of the land cover – much of it Arctic tundra – is looking more like landscapes found in warmer ecosystems. With 87,000 images taken from Landsat satellites, converted into data that reflects the amount of healthy vegetation on the ground, the researchers found that western Alaska, Quebec and other regions became greener between 1984 and 2012. The new Landsat study further supports previous work that has shown changing vegetation in Arctic and boreal North America. Earlier studies showed increased vegetation was connected to increasing global carbon dioxide and increasing global temperatures. Previous surveys of the vegetation across Alaska and Canada had taken a big-picture view of the region using coarse-resolution satellite sensors. To get a more detailed picture of the 4.1 million square-mile area, scientists used the NASA/USGS Landsat 5 and Landsat 7 satellites, which take a measurement for each 30-by-30 meter (98-by-98 foot) parcel of land. Using the detailed Landsat data, NASA scientists found that there was extensive greening in the tundra of western Alaska, the northern coast of Canada, and the tundra of Quebec and Labrador. While northern forests greened in Canada, they tended to decline in Alaska. Overall, the scientists found that 29.4 percent of the region greened up, especially in shrublands and sparsely vegetated areas, while 2.9 percent showed vegetation decline. With the large, continental-scale map complete, researchers will focus on the more human scale – looking at local conditions to see what might control the greening patterns, whether it’s local topography, nearby water sources, or particular types of habitat. They also plan to investigate forested areas, particularly in the greening Quebec.
  • Mining for Water in Kansas
    2015.08.17
    Garden City, Ks., is at the heart of the American breadbasket where farmers grow corn, wheat and sorghum and raise cattle. Over the last sixty years, two technologies have transformed production from rain fed-oriented agriculture to high-intensity irrigated agriculture, a change that transformed the local economy. Instead of relying on the rain, Garden City farmers now use low-cost groundwater pumps and a technique called "center-pivot irrigation" to essentially mine for water locked deep underground. Garden City's current bounty is possible because beneath these farmer's fields is a vast reservoir of water, called the Ogallala Aquifer. This vast stretch of groundwater touches eight states, from South Dakota and Wyoming to New Mexico and Texas and so, because the semi-arid climate of the High Plains doesn't receive enough rainfall to support intensive agriculture, farmers pump this trapped water above ground to irrigate their fields. The growth and change in irrigation practices is visible in these four Landsat images from 1972 (bands 6-5-4 from Landsat 1), 1988 and 2011 (bands 4-3-2 from Landsat 5), and 2015 (bands 5-4-3 from Landsat 8). In these comparable band combinations, healthy vegetation appears bright red while sparse grasslands and fallow fields are in shades of green. Located in the southwest part of the state, over time Garden City's rectangular fields of rain-fed farms and more traditional irrigation methods gave way to the large circles made by center-pivot irrigation. Farmers pump water directly from groundwater wells in the center of the field to a long pipe studded with low-hanging sprinklers. The pipe rotates from the center like the hand of a clock, watering the fields. It's a labor and water-saving method that has revolutionized agriculture worldwide, increasing yields and allowing food production in areas where plants would otherwise wither from drought. Because the Ogallala aquifer recharges from new rainwater slowly, some of the water used to irrigate these fields is actually water that's been trapped underground since the last Ice Age. Even with the rise of water-conserving center-pivot irrigation and other efforts to conserve, this aquifer is slowly going dry. According to the U.S. Geological Survey data from 1980-1995, water levels in southern sections of the Ogallala Aquifer during that time dropped 20 to more than 40 feet (6 to 12 meters). And the Kansas and Texas droughts in 2011 and 2012 have dropped water levels by several more feet. NASA and the U.S. Department of the Interior through the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) jointly manage Landsat, and the USGS preserves a 40-plus-year archive of Landsat images that is freely available over the Internet.
  • Global Forest Cover, Loss, and Gain 2000-2012
    2013.11.14
    Twelve years of global deforestation, wildfires, windstorms, insect infestations, and more are captured in a new set of forest disturbance maps created from billions of pixels acquired by the imager on the NASA-USGS Landsat 7 satellite. The maps are the first to measure forest loss and gain using a consistent method around the globe at high spatial resolution, allowing scientists to compare forest changes in different countries and to monitor annual deforestation. Since each pixel in a Landsat image represents a piece of land about the size of a baseball diamond, researchers can see enough detail to tell local, regional and global stories.

    Hansen and colleagues analyzed 143 billion pixels in 654,000 Landsat images to compile maps of forest loss and gain between 2000 and 2012. During that period, 888,000 square miles (2.3 million square kilometers) of forest was lost, and 308,900 square miles (0.8 million square kilometers) regrew. The researchers, including scientists from the University of Maryland, Google, the State University of New York, Woods Hole Research Center, the U.S. Geological Survey and South Dakota State University, published their work in the Nov. 15, 2013, issue of the journal Science.

    Key to the project was collaboration with team members from Google Earth Engine, who reproduced in the Google Cloud the models developed at the University of Maryland for processing and characterizing the Landsat data; Google Earth Engine contains a complete copy of the Landsat record. The computing required to generate these maps would have taken 15 years on a single desktop computer, but with cloud computing was performed in a few days.

    Since 1972, the Landsat program has played a critical role in monitoring, understanding and managing the resources needed to sustain human life such as food, water and forests. Landsat 8 launched Feb. 11, 2013, and is jointly managed by NASA and USGS to continue the 40-plus years of Earth observations.

    To view the forest cover maps in Google Earth Engine, visit: http://earthenginepartners.appspot.com/google.com/science-2013-global-forest
  • Pivot Irrigation in Saudi Arabia
    2013.05.23
    Saudi Arabia is drilling for a resource possibly more precious than oil.

    Over the last 24 years, it has tapped hidden reserves of water to grow wheat and other crops in the Syrian Desert. This time series of data shows images acquired by three different Landsat satellites operated by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey.

    The green fields that dot the desert draw on water that in part was trapped during the last Ice Age. In addition to rainwater that fell over several hundred thousand years, this fossil water filled aquifers that are now buried deep under the desert's shifting sands.

    Saudi Arabia reaches these underground rivers and lakes by drilling through the desert floor, directly irrigating the fields with a circular sprinkler system. This technique is called center-pivot irrigation.

    Because rainfall in this area is now only a few centimeters (about one inch) each year, water here is a non-renewable resource. Although no one knows how much water is beneath the desert, hydrologists estimate it will only be economical to pump water for about 50 years.

    In this series of four Landsat images, the agricultural fields are about one kilometer (.62 miles) across. The images were created using reflected light from the short wave-infrared, near-infrared, and green portions of the electromagnetic spectrum (bands 7, 4, and 2 from Landsat 4 and 5 TM and Landsat 7 ETM+ sensors). Using this combination of wavelengths, healthy vegetation appears bright green while dry vegetation appears orange. Barren soil is a dark pink, and urban areas, like the town of Tubarjal at the top of each image, have a purple hue.

    Landsat 4 launched in 1982 and provided scientific data for 11 years until 1993. NASA launched Landsat 5 in 1984 and it ran a record-breaking 28 years, sending back what was likely its last data in 2011. Landsat 7 is still up and running; it was launched in 1999. The data from these and other Landsat satellites has been instrumental in increasing our understanding of forest health, storm damage, agricultural trends, urban growth, and many other ongoing changes to our land.

    NASA and the U.S. Department of the Interior through the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) jointly manage Landsat, and the USGS preserves a 40-year archive of Landsat images that is freely available data over the Internet.

    Download a still image showing four of the years: 1987, 1991, 2000, and 2012.

  • Life Histories from Landsat: 25 Years in the Pacific Northwest Forest
    2012.12.07
    This visualization shows a sequence of Landsat-based data in the Pacific Northwest. There is one data set for each year representing an aggregate of the approximate peak of the growing season (around August). The data was created using a sophisticated algorithm called LandTrendr. LandTrendr analyzes 'stacks' of Landsat scenes, looking for statistical trends in the data and filtering out noise. The algorithm evaluated data from more than 1,800 Landsat Thematic Mapper images, nearly 1 Terabyte of raw imagery, to define the life histories of each of more than 336 million pixels on the landscape. The resulting trends identify periods of stability and change that are displayed as colors.

    In these false color images, the colors represent types of land; for example, blue areas are forests; orange/yellow areas are agriculture; and, purple areas are urban. Each 'stack' is representative of a Landsat scene. There are 22 stacks stitched together to cover most of the U.S. Pacific Northwest. This processed data is used for science, natural resource management, and education.

    The visualization zooms into the Portland area showing different types of land such as agricultural, urban, and forests. We move south to a region that was evergreen forest for a number of years (blue), then was clear cut in 1999 (orange), then began to regrow (yellow). A graph shows the trajectories for a particular location in the clearcut as the years repeat. The dots represent the original data from Landsat; and, the line represents LandTrendr analysis. We move over to the Three Sisters region to show an area of pine forest that becomes infested with bark beetles in 2004. Next, we move to the southern foothills of Mount Hood where a budworm infestation is in progress; around 1991, the worms move on to another area and shrubs start to regrow. Next we

    move to the east side of Mount Rainier National Park to see another budworm outbreak followed by shrub regrowth. Finally, we move to the west of Mount Rainier where we can see widespread clear cutting outside of the park, but no clear cutting inside the protected park land.


    Don't miss this related tour of the region.


  • Yellowstone Burn Recovery
    2012.07.23
    A combination of lightning, drought and human activity caused fires to scorch more than one-third of Yellowstone National Park in the summer of 1988. Within a year, burn scars cast a sharp outline on the 793,880 acres affected by fire, distinguishing wide sections of recovering forest, meadows, grasslands and wetlands from unburned areas of the park. After more than two decades, satellite instruments can still detect these scars from space.

    In the time-lapse video below, a series of false-color images collected by USGS-NASA Landsat satellites from 1987 to 2018 show the burning and gradual regeneration of Yellowstone's forests following the 1988 fire season. Watch as burn scars (dark red) quickly replace large expanses of healthy green vegetation (dark green) by 1989. Notice how the scars slowly fade over time as new vegetation begins to grow and heal the landscape.

    Landsat Project Scientist Jeff Masek has been studying the recovery of the forest after the 1988 Yellowstone fires. In the video below, he talks about how Landsat satellites detect the burn scars from space and distinguish them from healthy, un-burned forest and from new growth.

  • Las Vegas, 1972-2013
    2012.03.05
    What Doesn't Stay in Vegas? Sprawl.

    This image series shows the desert city's massive growth spurt since 1972. The outward expansion of the city is shown in a false-color time lapse of data from all the Landsat satellites.

    The large red areas are actually green space, mostly golf courses and city parks. You'll notice the images become a lot sharper around 1984, when new instrument designs improved the ability to resolve smaller parcels of land.

    These Las Vegas images were created using reflected light from the near-infrared, red and green portions of the electromagnetic spectrum (Landsat 5 TM bands 4,3,2 and Landsat 1-3 MSS bands 4,2,1).

    Landsat data have been instrumental in increasing our understanding of forest health, storm damage, agricultural trends, urban growth, and many other ongoing changes to our land resources. Studies using Landsat data have helped land managers keep track of the pace of urbanization in locations around the world.

    NASA and the U.S. Department of the Interior through the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) jointly manage Landsat, and the USGS preserves a 40-year archive of Landsat images with free distribution of data over the Internet. The next Landsat satellite, now known as the Landsat Data Continuty Mission (LDCM) and later to be called Landsat 8, is scheduled for a launch in February 2013.

  • Columbia Glacier, Alaska, 1986-2011
    2012.07.23
    The Columbia Glacier in Alaska is one of many vanishing around the world. Glacier retreat is one of the most direct and understandable effects of climate change. The consequences of the decline in alpine glaciers include contributing to global sea level rise.
  • Phoenix, AZ
    2012.07.23
    Arizona's capital of Phoenix and its neighboring towns in Maricopa County have undergone a major population boom in the last 40 years, and its effects are seen in everything from the expansion of town and cities and to an increased demand for fresh water.

  • Vermilion Parish, LA
    2012.07.23
    In Southwestern Louisiana, many forces have combined to have a pronounced effect on this unique part of the country. Not only the wandering of the lower Mississippi River over the centuries and periodic hurricanes, but also past and current human enterprises have shaped the landscape. The Chénier Plain in southwest Louisiana consists of marshes as well as ridges – chéniers - formed of sand and shell sediments and shaped by ancient currents and wave actions of the Gulf of Mexico. These elevated chéniers, a few meters tall at their highest parts, are preferred sites for the region’s residents due to their protection from flooding. The original chénier inhabitants, such as those in the Pecan Island area of Vermilion Parish, made their living off the surrounding wetlands by farming, fishing, hunting, and trapping. More recently, livelihoods include employment in the oil and gas industry. The 1973 Landsat image shows considerable amounts of open water in smooth colors ranging from turquoise to dark blues. Marshes are represented by the mosaic of reds and dark shades, such as those south of the thin straight line that is the highway along the Pecan Island ridge. This sequence of six Landsat images is centered on the community of Pecan Island in Vermilion Parish, located on a chénier between the salty Gulf of Mexico to the south and freshwater White Lake to the north, show major changes across this low-lying ecologically-rich region. As you look these images spanning 1973 to 2011, you will see the increase in open water – and loss of salt marshes, and also the loss of farm fields south of Pecan Island. Perhaps most pronounced are the changes in the regions’s marshes, which are caused, in part, by the impacts from distant engineering efforts to control the lower Mississippi River off to the east. The changes are also due to the shipping and access canals visible in the sequence of images. As the canals cut through the region, the flow of water was disrupted and the dredging spoil banks impounded marshes. As a result of these forces, sediments from the Mississippi no longer spread over the marshes and the connectivity between the lakes and marshes has changed. Upland farmed areas that had been dry in 1973 just south of Pecan Island were covered by open water in 1980. These structural controls have made the marshes less resilient in repairing themselves after major storms such as hurricanes. Hurricanes, including Danny in 1985 and Rita in 2005, inundated marshes and surrounded Pecan Island with floodwaters, as well as flooding agricultural fields – such as those southeast of Pecan Island. The higher chéniers provided storm surge protection to the community but the combination of salt water intrusion and hurricanes have led to the abandonment of the farm land. Over the last century, rising sea levels and a subsiding coast have added to a changing southern Louisiana landscape where open water is slowly displacing marshes. These changes were already happening when the first Landsat was launched in 1972 and observations from subsequent Landsats have recorded the continuing regional changes. The southern Louisiana community, including Mr. Brent Yantis and Dr. Whitney Broussard, who entered the "My American Landscape" contest on behalf of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette has rallied behind the people of the Chénier Plain and are researching sustainability plans for Pecan Island and other communities to live in this dynamic environment. A future, they hope, that will maintain the cultural and ecosystem resiliency of this uniquely American landscape.
  • US City Images
    2012.07.18
    The following are U.S. cities imaged by Landsat over its 40 year span. Multiple years of selected cities are grouped together with specific years in parentheses.
  • City Growth on Flickr
    External Resource
    Cities around the world have grown under Landsat's watch. Our Flickr page has then and now comparisons.
  • Rebuilding Poplar Island
    2012.06.28
    Poplar Island is being rebuilt by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers using dredged mud from the Baltimore Harbor which lies about 30 miles (about 48 kilometers) north of the island.

    Reconstruction of the island began in 1998 with the erection of dikes to contain the mud.

    The growing island is a wildlife sanctuary, a hatchery for hundreds of diamondback terrapins and home to about 170 different species of birds including terns and bald eagles.

    NASA and the U.S. Department of the Interior through the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) jointly manage Landsat. The USGS preserves the archive of Landsat images and distributes all of the 40-years of Landsat data free over the Internet.

  • Zoom in to Smith Island, MD
    2011.05.13
    As sea levels rise, islands in the Chesapeake Bay are disappearing under water.
  • Forest Recovering From Mount St. Helens Eruption
    2010.05.18
    The 1980 Mount Saint Helens eruption was one of the most significant natural disasters in the US in the past half-century. The eruption laid waste to 230 square miles. Landsat captured the extent of the destruction, with grey tones revealing widespread lava flows and ash deposits. Subsequent Landsat images over the years show the spread of vegetation recovery across the site.
  • Mississippi Flooding 2011
    2011.05.19
    Heavy spring rains and snowmelt led to devastating floods along the Mississippi River in May 2011. Landsat 5 flew over the Mississippi River on May 10, 2011, giving a distinct view of the extraordinary extent of the flooding. This was only eight days after the Army Corps of Engineers began blasting holes in earthen levees near Cairo, Illinois, when the river reached a depth of 61 feet.

    The extent of the 2011 flooding is compared with the same locations in April 2010.

  • Landsat's Global Perspective
    2014.07.22
    Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the 1972 launch of the Landsat 1 spacecraft, this is a "greatest hits" montage of Landsat data. Throughout the decades, the Landsat satellites have given us a detailed view of the changes to Earth's land surface. By collecting data in multiple wavelength regions, including thermal infrared wavelengths, the Landsat fleet has allowed us to study natural disasters, urban change, water quality and water usage, agriculture development, glaciers and ice sheets, and forest health. NASA and the U.S. Department of the Interior through the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) jointly manage Landsat, and the USGS preserves a 40-year archive of Landsat images that is freely available data over the Internet.

Celebrating Milestones

  • From The Archives
    2012.07.23
    A look back at the early years of Landsat.
  • 5th Anniversary of Landsat 8's Launch
    2018.02.09
    In its five years in space, Landsat 8 has racked up an impressive line of statistics. The satellite made 26,500 orbits around Earth. It captured 1.1 million "scenes" of our home planet. Its images now represent 16 percent of all the observations kept in the 45-year Landsat archive.

    Landsat 8's higher resolution and faster data acquisition rates are enabling significant research and opening up new ways in which scientists, businesses, and resource managers can use the data. Water quality mapping, near-real-time ice velocity detection, and improved tracking of crop health and how much water crops use are among the research and real-world applications that Landsat 8 is enabling.

    Landsat 8, which before launch was called the Landsat Data Continuity Mission, launched into orbit on Feb. 11, 2013. Once it was renamed Landsat 8 and became operational, the satellite continued a streak of engineering and science success unmatched in spaceflight: the succession of Landsat satellites has now made 45-plus years of continuous observations of Earth's surface, without any gaps.

    The length of this record is what makes Landsat a "cornerstone" program in the growing field of land imaging. For any new missions that want to compare imagery or data to from previous decades, the unbroken Landsat record offers the one, consistent reference point. This role is furthered by USGS and NASA's commitment to keeping the entire Landsat data archive free and accessible to scientists and the public.
  • Landsat 8 Celebrates First Year in Orbit
    2014.02.26
    On Feb. 11, 2013, Landsat 8 launched into Earth orbit, riding on an Atlas V rocket. Weighing 6,133 pounds, Landsat 8 is the eigth satellite in the long-running Landsat program, jointly managed by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey.

    At 16 feet tall, with a 32 foot long solar array, Landsat 8 orbits Earth at an altitude of 438 miles, moving at a speed of 16,760 miles per hour. It takes 99 minutes to complete one orbit, with about 14.5 orbits each day. There have been 5,319 orbits in the first year of Landsat 8's mission. It takes 16 days to build a complete scan of the globe, and on the 17th day the orbit cycle begins again.

    Between the two instruments on board, Landsat 8 records data in 11 separate wavelength regions spanning visible, infrared, and thermal radiation. The data is transmitted several times a day to the USGS Earth Resources and Observation Science Center in Sioux Falls, SD, where it is added to the archive of Landsat data stretching back to 1972. In its first year, users have downloaded 1,322,969 scenes of Landsat 8 data from the USGS.

    Landsat 8 continues the decades-long Landsat record of Earth's land surface at a scale where the impacts of humans and nature can be detected and monitored over time. Every continent, every season, every year, at a resolution that can distinguish an area the size of a baseball field. With help from Landsat we can monitor the cultivation of our food crops, quantify our precious water resources as they ebb and flow, and track deforestation globally. Landsat data constitute a key ingredient in decision making for agriculture, climate research, disaster mitigation, ecosystems, forestry, human health, urban growth, and water management.

  • Landsat 40th Live Shot
    2012.07.18
    LDCM Project Scientist Jim Irons is interviewed on live TV.
  • Best of "Earth As Art"
    2012.07.23
    The Top 5 images from the USGS "Earth As Art" collection.
  • Landsat 5 Turns 25 Years Old
    2009.03.01
    In 2009, Landsat 5 completed 25 years of collecting data - 22 years beyond its design life.