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USGS - science for a changing world

Land Remote Sensing Program


The USGS is fostering the use of land remote sensing technology to meet local, national, and global challenges.

Landsat 8 Imagery Reveals Heavy Flooding in Sri LankaLandsat 8 Shows Burn Extent, Active Fire at Fort McMurrayWildfire Forces Evacuations in Fort McMurray, AlbertaLake Levels in Hispaniola Rise DramaticallyLandsat Played Role in Confirming 1986 Chernobyl DisasterWildfires Scorch Large Swaths Along Oklahoma-Kansas BorderWind, Waves Alter Coastal BarriersLandsat Helps Battle Pine Beetle HordesMississippi River Floods Deep SouthAlaska Earthquake Anniversary
Landsat 8 Imagery Reveals Heavy Flooding in Sri Lanka
On May 18, 2016, a Landsat 8 acquisition of flood-ravaged Sri Lanka produced impressive imagery of swollen waterways.
Landsat 8 Shows Burn Extent, Active Fire at Fort McMurray
Eleven days after a wildfire first sparked south of Fort McMurray in northern Alberta, Landsat 8’s Operational Land Imager (OLI) captured imagery of one of the most destructive infernos in Canadian history. The fire has burned an area approaching 600,000 acres.
Wildfire Forces Evacuations in Fort McMurray, Alberta
A massive wildfire burning near Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada, fueled by dry conditions and high winds, has destroyed 1,600 structures and forced more than 88,000 people to evacuate the area so far.
Lake Levels in Hispaniola Rise Dramatically
Landsat imagery shows a dramatic change in lakes Azuéi and Enriquillo, inland saltwater lakes on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola that are known for their crocodiles and iguanas.
Landsat Played Role in Confirming 1986 Chernobyl Disaster
When the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded 30 years ago, on April 26, 1986, Landsat 5 was the first civilian satellite to confirm the disaster near Pripyat, Ukraine, in the agricultural heartland of the Soviet Union.
Wildfires Scorch Large Swaths Along Oklahoma-Kansas Border
Grasslands made lush by summer rains in 2015 have turned into a tinderbox along the Kansas-Oklahoma border after a dry winter and gusty spring winds transformed the withering vegetation into fire fuel.
Wind, Waves Alter Coastal Barriers
In the United States, barrier beaches and spits line up along nearly a quarter of the country's coasts, mostly facing the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.
Landsat Helps Battle Pine Beetle Hordes
At the size of a grain of rice, the mountain pine beetle’s subtle assault on America’s forests isn’t always obvious to the naked eye.
Mississippi River Floods Deep South
Late winter storms March 10-12, 2016, drenched areas of Louisiana, eastern Texas, Mississippi, and Arkansas with up to 20 inches of rain, causing significant damage and evacuations.
Alaska Earthquake Anniversary
When the Earth shook Alaska 52 years ago—on Good Friday, March 27, 1964—tsunamis wiped out entire villages.
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Remote Sensing Highlights

2016 William T. Pecora Award: Nominations being accepted through June 10, 2016

The William T. Pecora Award is presented annually to individuals or groups that have made outstanding contributions toward understanding the Earth by means of remote sensing. Nominations for the 2016 award must be received by June 10, 2016.

Landsat 8 Thermal Data Update

Landsat 8 Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS) data continue to be collected with the scene select mirror encoder electronics disabled (mode 0). While in this mode, the TIRS line of sight model (LOS) will be regularly updated and modifications are being made to automate revisions to the LOS in the Level-1 Product Generation System (LPGS).
Landsat 8 Operational Land Imagery (OLI) and TIRS data that have been collected through the 4th quarter of 2015 (October-December) will be reprocessed into nominal Level-1 products containing valid TIRS data, and will be available in February 2016.
TIRS data acquired during the 1st quarter of 2016 (January-March) will be reprocessed and made available in April. A strategy is being developed for generating near-real time products moving forward while operating in mode 0. More details will be posted on the Landsat Missions Web site as they become available.

A New Era of Space Collaboration between Australia and U.S.

On June 18, 2015 in Canberra, Australia, the U.S. Geological Survey and Geoscience Australia signed a comprehensive new partnership to maximize land remote sensing operations and data that can help to address issues of national and international significance.

USGS Ups Ease of Use for Landsat Data

The USGS has begun production of higher-level (more highly processed) Landsat data products to help advance land surface change studies. One such product is Landsat surface reflectance data. Surface reflectance data products approximate what a sensor held just above the Earth's surface would measure, if conditions were ideal. The precise removal of atmospheric artifacts increases the consistency and comparability between images of the Earth's surface taken at different times of the year and different times of the day.

NASA,USGS Begin Work on Landsat 9

NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) have started work on Landsat 9, planned to launch in 2023, which will provide mission-critical continuity in the Earth-observing program's record of land images.

Visit the Highlights Archive for information highlighted here in the past.

Featured Science

Multiple Satellite Eyes to Track Algal Threat to U.S. Freshwater
Algal Blooms

Landsat 8 is demonstrating promising new capabilities for water quality assessment. Satellite-based instruments allow for more frequent observations over broader areas than physical water sampling. Four federal agencies—NASA, NOAA, EPA, and USGS—are joining forces to develop an early warning system for toxic and nuisance algal blooms. Through this project, satellite data on harmful algal blooms will be converted to a format that stakeholders can use through mobile devices and web portals. This will improve detection of these blooms and help researchers better understand the conditions under which they occur.

Landsat Data aids in Study: U.S. Eastern Ecosystems Helps Counter Greenhouse Gas Emissions Contributing to Climate Change
Eastern Ecosystems Helps Counter Greenhouse Gas Emissions

USGS scientists used Landsat data to determine that forests, wetlands and farms in the eastern U.S. naturally store 300 million tons of carbon a year, which is nearly 15 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions EPA estimates the country emits each year or an amount that exceeds and offsets yearly U.S. car emissions. In conjunction with the national assessment, USGS released a new web tool, which allows users to see the land and water carbon storage and change in their ecosystems between 2005 and 2050 in the lower 48 states. Biological carbon storage - also known as carbon sequestration - is the process by which carbon dioxide (CO2) is removed from the atmosphere and stored as carbon in vegetation, soils and sediment. The USGS estimates the ability of different ecosystems to store carbon now and in the future, providing vital information for land-use and land-management decisions. Management of carbon stored in our ecosystems and agricultural areas is relevant both for mitigation of climate change and for adaptation to such changes.


Visit the Featured Science Archive for information highlighted here in the past.


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