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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.

35th Anniversary of Mount St. Helens EruptionHaruj Volcanic Field, LibyaChanges to Lake Urmia, IranIceland\Fires Near Cape Town, South AfricaAgricultural Land Use along the Chira River, PeruNew Land Forming in the Atchafalaya BasinChesapeake Bay: A Landsat 8 Surface Reflectance MosaicThree Gorges Dam, ChinaTopaz Solar Farm, California
35th Anniversary of Mount St. Helens Eruption
The violent eruption of Mount St. Helens 35 years ago permanently changed the mountain and surrounding forest.
Haruj Volcanic Field, Libya
Haruj is the large volcanic field that dominates this Landsat image mosaic acquired over central Libya.
Changes to Lake Urmia, Iran
Lake Urmia, located in northwestern Iran, was once one of the largest saltwater lakes in the Middle East. These Landsat images show the changes to Lake Urmia’s surface area over the past fourteen years.
Iceland's Ice Caps
These two Landsat images show several of Iceland's ice caps as they appeared in September 1986 and 2014.
Fires Near Cape Town, South Africa
These two Landsat images show the urban area around Cape Town, South Africa. The more recent image (right) reveals scars from several fires that broke out in early March 2015, and were intensified by strong winds and hot summer temperatures.
Agricultural Land Use along the Chira River, Peru
These two Landsat images show the expansion of agricultural fields along the Chira River in northern Peru.
New Land Forming in the Atchafalaya Basin
Most of the Mississippi River Delta in southern Louisiana is sinking. An area almost the size of Delaware has been lost to subsidence over the past 80 years. However, further west along the coastline is an area of delta buildup.
Chesapeake Bay: A Landsat 8 Surface Reflectance Mosaic
Chesapeake Bay is the Nation`s largest estuary and its restoration and protection is a priority. The USGS provides scientific information to help manage this vital ecosystem.
Three Gorges Dam, China
These Landsat images show the site of the Three Gorges Dam in China, which is the largest hydroelectric dam in the world.
Topaz Solar Farm, California
The Topaz Solar Farm is one of the largest solar farms in the United States.
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Remote Sensing Highlights

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.

2015 William T. Pecora Award: Nominations being accepted through June 15, 2015

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 2015 award must be received by June 15, 2015.

Landsat Seen as Stunning Return on Public Investment

Taking a hard look at the value of Landsat to the U.S. economy was the goal of the Landsat Advisory Group of the National Geospatial Advisory Committee. The team of commercial, state/local government, and non-profit geospatial information experts updated a critical review of the value of Landsat information that was recently released to the public. Their conclusion states the economic value of just one year of Landsat data far exceeds the multi-year total cost of building, launching, and managing the satellites and sensors. The impressive return emphasizes Landsat's role as a crucial national asset comparable to the satellite-based GPS system and National Weather Service satellites. Empowered by free access to the Landsat data archive since 2008, researchers are examining our planet in much greater detail.

Tournament Earth 2015

The #2 seed in NASA's Tournament Earth 2015 competition took the Landsat 8 image of the colorful faults of Xinjiang, China to the championship. Coinciding with college basketball's "March Madness" tournament, NASA's online voting used the same bracket format to determine a favorite image. The winning image, selected by readers of the web site, was a first for a Landsat image.

Remote Sensing's Special Issue on Landsat 8 Characterization and Calibration

The sensors on Landsat 8-the Operational Land Imager (OLI) and the Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS)-are a new kind of technology for the Landsat series. These pushbroom scanners are a change from their whiskbroom predecessors. This means their individual characteristics and calibrations can produce differences in data characteristics and quality. A special issue of the journal Remote Sensing aims to provide a good understanding of the radiometric and geometric properties of the Landsat 8 instruments and their data. Two calibration scientists from the USGS EROS Center were guest editors for the issue, in which 18 open access papers cover the design, calibration, and spectral and radiometric characterization of the OLI and TIRS.

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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